HAMILTON – CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie was once again optimistic and short of details on Friday in his first state of the league address since 2019.
The CFL did not play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several sources have always claimed that it cost the league between $ 60 million and $ 80 million.
The CFL resumed in 2021 with a condensed 14-game regular-season schedule. The game ends Sunday with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats meeting in the Gray Cup at a sold-out Tim Hortons Field.
This is a rematch of the final of 19, won by Winnipeg 33-12.
“Winston Churchill says, ‘Never lose a crisis’, and I’m happy to say we didn’t,” Ambrosie said. “I’m not going to tell you that we were able to fix everything.
“I’m not going to suggest that we don’t have challenges on the horizon. We do. I mean, frankly, we’ve made a lot of big efforts that were long overdue.”
As Ambrosie spoke on Friday, the CFL announced a long-term partnership with Genius Sports, a data, technology and commercial company that connects sports, betting and media. On its website, Genius Sports claims to have partnerships with more than 400 sports organizations, including the NFL, English Premier League, NCAA, NASCAR and the PGA Tour.
Ambrosie sprang up on the potential of the CFL partnership, citing rapid growth and an expanded reach of the league in existing and new markets. But again, it lacked specifics, claiming that most of Genius Sports’ investments were in technology.
Ambrosie said a big impetus for the deal was the legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada. When asked how much betting money the CFL could receive, Ambrosie said, “We have made a preliminary forecast that I won’t share with you, that we will not share publicly. But it is an exciting opportunity.
He also said the pandemic has forced the CFL and its teams to refine their business models, including the adoption of revenue sharing between clubs. Again, Ambrosie did not provide details, saying only this move was widely accepted in the league.
It was an interesting comment. It’s hard to imagine that officials from the three CFL community-owned teams – Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Edmonton, which have traditionally been the most profitable – would be happy to support franchises owned by wealthy individuals or groups of people. owners.
“I think now we’ve created an environment, we’ve created a philosophy that all teams can and should, if they’re doing most of the right things, be able to break even,” Ambrosie said. “Now it’s going to take a little more work.
“But at the heart of the philosophy, we want all teams to be able to break even if they do some, most, if not all of the right things. We’re going to hold each other accountable for that standard.”
Brian Ramsay, executive director of the CFL Players’ Association, and union president Solomon Elimimian were both encouraged by the revelation of Ambrosie’s revenue sharing. The league and its players will begin negotiations this offseason on a new collective agreement, as it expires before training camp begins.
“This is a positive step and as the league moves in a positive direction we need to make sure we back it up with caution and optimism,” Elimimian said during the State of the Union video conference. CFLPA. “This is something that we have been pushing for the last few years because we know that it is very important that the nine teams are in a healthy financial position.
“It’s a (closer) step towards getting that done and we’re looking to hear more details on this program.”
Ramsay said the league-CFLPA collaboration to change the current CBA and get football back on the pitch is needed this offseason to ensure both sides continue their current momentum.
“If we take the same collaborative approach, we are very confident that we can be successful in the future,” said Ramsay. “We are coming in with this solution-based focus as we have been doing over the past few years.”
The Toronto Argonauts, owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, averaged just 8,603 fans per game in the regular season, but drew more than 21,000 in their final home loss of 27-19 in the East Division against Hamilton last weekend. Still, the franchise is set to lose around $ 12 million, making it very difficult to see a break-even prospect in the league’s biggest market.
Not that MLSE can’t afford it. The organization also owns the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, the Toronto Raptors of the NBA and the Toronto FC of the MLS, among other entities.
Toronto also made headlines for all the wrong reasons before and after Sunday’s game.
On December 2, starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson, linebacker Dexter McCoil Sr. and defensive back Jeff Richards were among five Argos players who attended a home game for the Toronto Raptors. This violated CFL COVID-19 protocols and all five were sent home by the club the next day.
Normally, players would have to quarantine themselves for four days and provide two negative tests before they can resume team activities. But CFL said the five could return if quarantined for 48 hours and provided three negative tests.
Bethel-Thompson, McCoil, and Richards all passed the protocols and played. The other two, rushing winger Charleston Hughes and Canadian receiver Llevi Noel, were on the injured list and did not dress.
After Sunday’s game, some Argos players and vice president of player staff John Murphy clashed with fans. The CFL suspended Murphy indefinitely on Wednesday and Ambrosie said the league and MLSE were continuing to investigate the matter.
“We can’t have this… we have to be a beacon for tolerance, not intolerance,” Ambosie said. “We can’t stand that kind of thing.
“We take care of our own family business and we will.”
Ambrosie said the CFL had not changed its COVID-19 protocols for Toronto. He added that the league had decided at the start of the season that it would allow its medical staff to “assess these situations on a case-by-case basis.”
“We’re not letting a guy who got a C in science in grade 9 make these decisions,” Ambrosie said. “We didn’t change the policy, we let the doctors do what we decided to let them do at the very start of the season.”
The CFL encouraged players to get vaccinated and put in place a policy that would apply to game cancellations caused by COVID-19 issues involving teams that have not reached the 85% vaccination threshold. Forfeits and lost wages were potential consequences.
In October, the league announced that eight teams had reached the 85% level and estimated that 93% of players would have been fully vaccinated by October 31. The league has only experienced one major outbreak of COVID-19 that has forced a postponement of a regular game. season match.
“One of our basic principles was that we had to get our players vaccinated, we had to get our football operations vaccinated,” Ambrosie said. “We’re not going to walk away from that, we think it’s actually the right thing to do.
“Part of the answer will be decided by government policy. Part of the answer must be formed in a conversation with our players and our players association. Much of the story about the future of vaccination status goes to be written in the coming month and we want to be a leader … because it’s the best way to keep people safe and healthy and to keep our athletes on the field. “
The CFL’s return to the game has not been fully embraced by fans. The average attendance this year was only 19,164, up from 22,917 two years ago and 27,767 from 2011.
Many have complained that the level of play has dropped. This year, Winnipeg (23 offensive points per game) was the team with the most points and the Montreal Alouettes (371.8 yards per game) boasted the best offense.
In 2019, Hamilton led the CFL in scoring (26.1 points per game) and offense (393.7 yards per game). Ambrosie said the league is looking for ways to speed up games.
“In a world where time pressure seems to be a constant theme, the question is, ‘Do we need to speed up our game? ”Ambrosie said. “That’s the general question, ‘How do we keep moving our game forward?
“How do we make our game more entertaining? Faster, I think that’s a theme we’re looking for.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 10, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press