TORONTO — To kick off Grey Cup Unite week, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie joined fans for a special virtual town hall where he presented updates on the league’s plans for the future and much more.
Ambrosie, who was joined by TSN’s Sara Orlesky, also touched on how Grey Cup Unite came about, updates on the Halifax expansion and where the CFL 2.0 global initiative is headed, among many other topics.
Here are the best quotes from Ambrosie’s address.
“I know much of the news has been that we’re seeing a spike and the governments and healthcare officials are asking us to be careful. But Sara, it’s hard to ignore that there is some good news happening. First, we had Pfizer come out with its vaccine and this morning we woke up to the wonderful news as Moderna, they look like they have a vaccine. And so there’s lots of reasons to feel optimistic about 2021. Yes, we’ve got to look after ourselves. We’ve got to look after each other. We’ve got to get through this, through this pandemic. But Sara, I think there’s lots of reasons to feel good about ’21 and our teams want to play. Everyone’s excited about the ’21 season, we want to see our great athletes get back onto the field. We’re fighting through and looking forward to ’21 when we can resume great CFL football and being back in our stadiums, you and I talking on the sidelines and enjoying enjoying this great game that we love so much.”
– On the 2021 season
“In fact just this morning, I shared with my team that as soon as I see that we’ve got sign off from all of our stakeholders, we’re going to publish a schedule very, very soon. So we’re excited. We’ve got a schedule planned for 2021. We’re excited about that schedule and and I would say in the not too distant future, CFL fans from coast to coast to coast will get a chance to kind of pick their spots, mark their calendars and make sure that they’re going to be front and centre for CFL football in 2021.
– On if we will see a 2021 schedule soon
“We were on a call after the Labour Day Weekend and just lamenting how much we had missed our CFL football that weekend. Those great matchups, the ones we’ve just kind of come to think of, being really the beginning of the of the push towards the playoffs. And those great matchups have been part of the CFL for eons and we said, ‘Gosh, we just don’t want to go through a time like that again.’ So we looked at the calendar said, ‘You know what? Grey Cup is coming and we owe it to ourselves to make sure that we’re not on Grey Cup Monday, the post-Grey Cup Monday, regretting that we didn’t do something.’ That really got the wheels turning and a lot of wonderful people, including all of you at TSN, and our partners really rolled up their sleeves and said, ‘Let’s make sure, we may be doing it virtually, but let’s celebrate our league, our game and this great country of ours.’
– On how Grey Cup Unite came about
“We are excited about Halifax and the prospect of a 10th franchise and I’m so excited and proud to be working with the ownership groups. Schooners Sports and Entertainment, it’s an amazing collection of people who love the idea of bringing that long-awaited 10th franchise to our league. One of the things that I find so compelling about the way they’re thinking is that they’re very focused on how they can be part of Canada’s economic recovery. They’re talking about the stadium project in the Atlantic region. The economic impact and the number of jobs created, 1,400 jobs would be created during the construction process, another upwards of 1,400 jobs would be created to service the stadium and all of the things that go on around it. (There would be) an estimated $100 million a year of economic activity that would result from having a stadium in the Atlantic region in Halifax. And when they talk like that, I realized that dream is so alive and we’re looking forward to getting in front of government, Halifax Regional Council and the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government and really talking about this as a real opportunity to stimulate the economy as we get through and past this pandemic.”
– On the future of the Atlantic Schooners
“We’re planning on being in Hamilton. We just are and I’m so excited. In conversations with healthcare officials, obviously it’s early, still wants to develop but in conversations with health care officials, they are looking at late summer and fall, getting potentially back more than normal. Certainly November is a long ways off. We know how much can happen in a year. Look, Hamilton just has such an amazing event plan. The city is just so vibrant. If you haven’t been to Hamilton in the last while you’ve just got to go. It’s really in a state of transformation. Tim Hortons Field, I think is just such a big part of that story and what Bob Young, Scott Mitchell and the team have done there. But we’re excited, we’re going to be in Hamilton in 2021, for Grey Cup. It’ll be a special event, maybe it’ll be that celebration we’re all longing for where our lives returned to more like normal.”
– On the Grey Cup in Hamilton in 2021
“It’s one of the things that’s on a long checklist of issues that we’re going to face going forward. Again, I’m going to come at this through the lens of some optimism. I think there are reasons for all of us to start feeling like maybe we can see the light at the end of this tunnel. As the story continues to develop and the vaccine starts to find its way into our communities that border restriction issue will start to change and we’ll start to see the border opening. That will give rise to an opportunity for players from the US and around the world to you enter Canada. So it’s early. You know, the nice thing is it’s only the middle of November 2020 and we still got lots of time, but it is something that we’re watching but again, I think there’s good reason to feel optimistic that our players will be back playing football in the CFL in 2021.”
– On the border situation and how to potentially bring American players into Canada
“When we had the misfortune, if I can use that term, of having to cancel our season, the federal government invited us to talk to them. We have continued to have a discussion with them and kept that line of communication open. But we haven’t stopped there. I mean, we’re looking at all manner of opportunities to raise capital. The single best solution for the CFL, in respect of our plan going forward, is to be able to get our stadiums opened up to get our players back on the field and to get our fans back in the stands. That is the single best thing that could happen to this league. But I’m happy to report we’re looking at all kinds of options, keeping our doors open. And hopefully all of those things will come together, because we’re excited about 2021 and beyond, and we’re going to make it happen.”
– On possible funding outside of government assistance
“I think it’s safe to say that the pandemic is suddenly going to change the way businesses do write contracts, I think we’re going to see pandemic clauses inserted into regular everyday contracts. I think it’s certainly something that we’ll have to talk to the players about once the crisis passes, and even now, as we go through this, and we start planning for our ’21 season and beyond, it’s to really talk to the players, talk to the Players Association, in the truest spirit of being partners in the future of the game. I think that’s the most important thing that we can do now is how do we how do we shape the future together? How do we create an alignment of interests? How do we make sure that we’re all rowing together so that ultimately the league is getting stronger that our foundation is strengthened? Obviously, losing our ’20 season felt terrible for all of us. Certainly, I know, it has been so hard on our players. But what we want to do is engage our players in a real meaningful conversation about how we work together now to take this league to unprecedented heights of success and all of those things that might have to be inserted into contracts. We’ll get to that. But we’ll get to that on the basis that we’re working together on a plan to make this league as big and strong as it can possibly be.”
– On CBA and player contracts
“I look at the world of sports today and we’ve seen so many great examples of how sports leagues have used international to really drive their success. I think we have that same opportunity. We look at the size of the market, the football market, there’s more than 20 million football fans in Mexico. A huge compliment of football fans in Brazil. Big, big groupings of football fans in Europe, in England and in Germany and other countries. We want to be able to make our game, a game for the whole world and welcome players into it. We are quietly and strategically working on a plan for 2021 and our international strategy and we’ll have in that plan some flexibility to either do more or less depending on the circumstances. But I believe it is a good part and a big part of the future that we can create for ourselves. But time is going to tell just how fast we move along and a lot of it will be based on what happens with the COVID crisis in the short term.”
– On the CFL 2.0 global strategy
“In our order of size and magnitude of revenues, the number one revenue stream for our league is our fans and our ticket sales. That has been and will be for the foreseeable future, the thing that drives our league and that’s what gave us such so much heartburn this year when we couldn’t get fans into our stadiums. Our number one revenue stream is tickets and and what we call ‘bums in seats.’ Second is our is our TV digital broadcast partnership with TSN. While Canada’s big country, and I believe the greatest country on Earth, we’re not the biggest country in the world so our TV broadcast revenue number isn’t as big as it would be if we were, say in the huge US market. But it’s a good agreement with a great partner at TSN. And then third is our sponsorships. And Sara, just a huge shout out to our to our sponsors and our partners who really have stood by us this whole year. They’ve been engaged with us, they’ve been looking to help us, they’ve been creative and supportive. We have some of the greatest brands in Canada, some of the greatest brands in the world, that are part of the CFL family, and a huge shout out to them and to our fans for wanting to stand beside us through this crisis. That’s when you know who your friends are and we’re proud to report and happy to report we’ve got a lot of friends who are looking forward to this league returning in 2021, getting back on track and then using that as a foundation to pursue heights of success that we could never have imagined before. So big thanks to all of them and looking forward to a great 2021 season.”
– On the CFL’s revenue streams
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