The Edmonton Elks, formerly known as the Edmonton Eskimos, is the most successful franchise in the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) history.
Founded in the provincial capital city of Alberta – Edmonton – the Edmonton Elks were officially added to the CFL in 1949. Just like their southern neighbors, the Green Bay Packers, the Edmonton Elks are easily identifiable on the field because of their bright green and gold uniforms.
Since its formation in 1949, the team has had a victorious history. To date, it has won the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup, their championship game, 14 times.
The most iconic part of their history was arguably when the team won the Grey Cup five years in a row – from 1978 to 1982.
This winning streak, and those which have followed, have genuinely won the hearts and loyalty of many fans throughout Alberta and Canada. This domination of the field makes them a safe bet for fans.
There are many ways that fans of a team find ways to get involved with their local teams. Many buy season tickets, sponsor the team or support them through online betting on sportbook websites. Edmonton on the other hand offers an additional method of involvement.
One of the most unique aspects of the Edmonton Elks is that they are community owned. Along with two other teams, the Winnipeg Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Edmonton Elks are owned by the fan ship.
Community-owned models come in many different forms. Some offer team shares every few years, allowing fans to buy into the company itself, while others enable fans to purchase stock year-round.
Then there are those who elect a fan-based council that helps guide the organization and advocate for the fan ship’s rights.
There are those who doubt public ownership and see private ownership as being the more stable choice. However, when asked about the validity of community ownership as a method for running an organization, former president and chief executive of the Elks, Rick LeLacheur, said:
“It has to be well-financed… I think community ownership with a team in financial disorder would have a problem doing it.”
Luckily, the Elks have not had this problem, which LeLacheur believes is partly due to their efficient financing and their domination of the field. These aspects show fans that they are investing fiscally and emotionally in a team that refuses to disappoint.
The community-owned team model has lost popularity over the years as private money and sponsorships have become interested in the Canadian Football League. However, some argue that there is definitely a space for it.
In fact, some believe that the CFL is the perfect league for it – citing the small operating costs, intense fanbase and progressive practices of the CFL.
Apart from the funding and loyalty that comes from being community owed – it also creates an environment where the demands of the community are more easily addressed because they have access to the decision makers.
Responsive to fans
One recent example of fans demanding a change and it being addressed is the rebranding of the team from the Edmonton Eskimos to the Edmonton Elks.
In June 2020, the team announced that it would be changing its name because fans considered it racist and an insult to the Inuit community of Canada.
The dedication to the community was considered in every part of the rebrand, from the fact that Elks are herd creatures to the creation of logos. One logo, a set of horns facing each other with three prongs, is designed to look like a football.
However, Trevor Sieben, the director of marketing for the team, explained that it also symbolized “a community coming together”.
This sentiment has been shared with fans who are excited and grateful for the rebranding.
The team has found other ways to give back to the community, which has given them so much.
The Elks make a concerted effort to associate with and support their community. In 2019, the team donated over half a million dollars to amateur football efforts and hosted flag football and tackle tournaments for local children.
By the end of that fiscal year, the team reported over 500 community appearances and over 1,000 hours of service. Even during the COVID-19 global pandemic, the team made 159 appearances at community events.
Together, this demonstrates how much the Edmonton Elks respect their fan ship and want to support their community any way they can.
The case for community ownership was arguably best summarized by Lyle Bauer, former president of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when he said:
“But if you look back, you’ll see there are three teams that have been there through thick and thin, through every franchise that has changed hands, where owners have walked away, teams that have been bailed out… There are three teams that have been there and three groups of ownership that have been consistent, that have stepped up to the plate. That’s Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Edmonton.”
Undoubtedly, for the Elks, between a successful rebranding, some of the most loyal fans in Canadian football and a phenomenally constructed roster — the 2022 season will be one of the best yet!
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