Edmonton Elks game to be first-ever professional football radio broadcast in Punjabi | CBC News

The Edmonton Elks are teaming up with a local radio station for the first-ever Punjabi language football broadcast in North America. 

The home game against the B.C. Lions will kick off on July 29 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. It will be broadcast on My Radio 580 AM, Alberta’s largest ethnic radio station. Listeners can tune in across the province on radio, while fans outside of Canada can tune in through the station’s online player. 

A Canadian Football League fan for almost 30 years, Ravi Gill says the Punjabi language broadcast is a good way to reach the wider community, something the NHL has been doing for almost 15 years already. 

“The ones that can’t speak English but want to get into football, or you don’t have family that do speak English but still want to watch it, this is a good way for them to understand the game,” said Gill. 

Ravi Gill from Edmonton
Ravi Gill is a long-time CFL fan from Edmonton. He says the Punjabi radio broadcast is a great way for the team to grow its fanbase. (Submitted by Ravi Gill)

Punjabi language growing provincially, across Canada

According to the 2021 Canadian census, Canada is home to roughly one million Punjabi people and more than half a million people speak predominantly Punjabi at home in Canada. 

Among the provinces, Alberta has the third-largest Punjabi population at 126,385, according to the 2021 census, behind Ontario and B.C.

Elks president and CEO Victor Cui says the goal of the broadcast is to make football more accessible to people that don’t understand the nuances of the sport. 

“Other sports are much easier to grasp,” said Cui. “Our sport has so many complexities to it. You really need somebody to explain it to you by your side.”

Last year, for the first time in league history, an Elks’ game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was broadcast in Cree. 

Accessibility to wider, more diverse audience 

The Punjabi football broadcast is an effort to continue reaching out to new communities, especially those where English is not their first language, said Cui. 

“I wish we had done it earlier,” said Cui. “We’re laying the foundation for some future growth.”

Edmonton Elks president and CEO talking to reporters on July 25, 2023.
Elks president and CEO Victor Cui talks to reporters on July 25. He says the Punjabi language broadcast will make the game more accessible to non-English speaking viewers who don’t understand the nuances of the sport. (Emilio Avalos/CBC)

Sports broadcasters Harpreet Pandher and Taqdeer Thindal, analysts on Hockey Night in Canada’s Punjabi crew, will call the game. They will both broadcast live from Commonwealth Stadium. 

Pandher says the broadcast could attract new football fans.

“I think you’ll have some people just randomly tuning in, not even knowing there’s a game on, and there are going to be questions like ‘What is this?'” said Pandher. 

With plans to tune in from Abbotsford, B.C., Rick Dhesa says the broadcast is a “long time coming,” considering the growing number of Punjabi-speaking communities across Canada. 

“It’s really cool to see and I hope they start doing it in other languages as well,” said Dhesa.

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