Ontario football leagues join forces

Recently, the Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL) and the Ontario Minor Football League (OMFL) announced a partnership between the two leagues that will see the OVFL become the largest football league in Ontario.

“They have partnered and want to take the lead in Ontario towards football unity in the province,” said OVFL President Marie Jackson. “The league is now by far the largest spring football league in Ontario.”

“It has about one-hundred teams with over sixty-five players.”

The respective leagues are looking to become a central hub for football in the province, where players can spend their entire youth playing within the same teams and people.

“The nice thing about it is it is from tyke, which is 7 years old, to senior varsity,” said Jackson.  “The OVFL only had bantam, from grade 7 to senior varsity.”

“It’s nice to have the kids from the age of seven all the way up in the same system, in the same group.”

Mark Fortier is president of the Niagara Spears of the OVFL and is confident in the efforts being made to evolve football in Ontario.

“Combining all of our efforts into a single league gives all of us more stability as far as a club perspective, a recruiting perspective, it makes it a little easier, you are able to offer football at different levels,” Sousa explained. ““We are actually looking at using our OMFL team as a developmental team for our OVFL club.”

The partership between the OVFL and OMFL could also provide new opportunities for aspiring young football players as well as infuse a new level of competition into the leagues.

“It also gives teams that are perhaps struggling competitive wise at the Ontario Varsity level,” said Fortier. “They can apply to play in the OMFL and move down a tier for a year or two and regroup.”

“It gives you the options, it will increase the competitiveness across all leagues.”

While Ed Sousa of the Brampton Bulldogs does not agree that the partnership will provide new and added levels of competition, it will help address important issues.

“I don’t think the partnership has anything to do from a competitive standpoint, the issue is larger in scope,” said Sousa. “How do we increase the footprint of football in Ontario, make the entire province aware that football is such a great activity.”

The Brampton Bulldogs were one of the teams that voted against the partnership but are aware of the benefits it can bring to Ontario football.

“In the long run it will be beneficial as long as we don’t lose focus of what the end game is, which is for the betterment of football throughout the entire province because it has been fragmented over the years,” said Sousa. “It’s in everyone’s best interests to pull the rope the same way in getting us to facilitate a principle stating that this is where we’d like to be and these are the initial steps to getting us there.”

While every path will have it’s obstacles, it seems that most of those involved in the process are confident that the move can only be a positive one for grassroots football in Ontario.

“It’s a win-win, it’s all about the players and the development of young men and women,” said Jackson. “Our objective is to encourage and teach good character, social responsibility and sportsmanship through athletics.”

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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