Ambrosie admits flaws, charms Lions fans on league-wide tour

Randy Ambrosie knew he was no longer universally acclaimed in the hours and days before he hit the halfway mark of his self-described listening tour of CFL outposts.

It only took a full day mingling with the B.C. Lions and their fans to restore the love.

The commissioner’s likeability quotient took a dive earlier this week when a CFL player anonymously took to 3DownNation to proclaim his colleagues had lost faith in Ambrosie after the league’s top administrator made strong comments about the league’s contract rules. The player was notably taken aback by Ambrosie’s assertion that players should supplement their income by getting a second job.

That didn’t come out as the commissioner had planned, Ambrosie admitted during a series of media events in Vancouver Thursday, and there was a mea culpa or two tossed in for good measure when asked about various aspects of his first nine months on the job.

Any suggestion that the mistakes were getting the better of Ambrosie, however, were hardly in evidence, judging by the favourable response he received when discussing the state of three-down football.

The first major off-season event hosted by the Lions, which took place in front of 200-odd hand-picked season ticket holders at Surrey City Hall, culminated in questions which had been screened by the club, and ended up amounting to a town hall in which the stage was shared by Ambrosie with new general manager Ed Hervey and president Rick LeLacheur.

The day started with Ambrosie holding court at a downtown steakhouse in which the commissioner entertained club sponsors. He copped a plea on the player article in 3DownNation, which took place hours before the CFL Players Association issued a statement charging the league with a double standard by enforcing option-year provision in player contracts while coaches are often allowed to break deals.

“I wasn’t telling anyone to get a job,” Ambrosie said. “I was not and will not tell players what they should or should not do. My life got better because I used the opportunity the CFL provided me to start thinking about my future. If my crime is that I love the players so much I want them not only to have good football careers but good lives then I’m guilty as charged. This could be a stepping stone to an amazing life.”

It’s clear the commissioner has that going for himself at present. He stickhandled when asked if he had any advice to help the Lions, and when asked if he thought ticket prices were part of the disconnect in the marketplace. And Ambrosie only grudgingly confirmed he last week fined the Lions for releasing linebacker Micah Awe, stressing the need for uniformity in the option-year window.

But he was direct on many other points, admitting more work is needed to speed up the pace of play, and admitting his decision to change rules involving challenges and padded practices last year without widespread consultation was not one of his finer moments.

He hit on many of the themes outlined in his previous four stops, then squared up in the 80-minute evening question-and-answer session.

— With a show of hands, Ambrosie claimed the Lions audience was in slightly favour of a three-week shift forward in the league schedule, but said nothing would be done likely without coming back to fans for more consultation, plus a long talk with TSN.

— Owner David Braley drew polite applause when Ambrosie and Lions coach Wally Buono, who was also on stage, praised the efforts of the Hamilton-based benefactor. Buono got a bigger response when he said his team’s priority is to improve the quality of play on the line of scrimmage as a means to improve the performance of quarterback Jon Jennings.

— Biggest applause from fans came the Lions’ new $85 kids season ticket was referenced. Biggest reaction came when fans aggressively shouted down a suggestion for an NFL exhibition game to be staged at B.C. Place Stadium.

— LeLacheur said devising an alternate jersey was not a priority. Hervey made it clear his immediate priority is to strengthen his club in free agency next week but hardly made it seem receiver Adarius Bowman is at the top of his hit list, a point which became moot when he signed in Winnipeg.

“Understand Adarius would be a good player for us, but I came in with a mindset that we needed to address areas to make sure we truly believe need to be addressed,” said Hervey, who also gently needled Ambrosie onstage for the need for the CFL to create a pre-free agency negotiation period as implemented a few years ago in the NFL.

It was Ambrosie’s show though, agreeing no aspect of the product should go unchallenged, whether it is the need to produce a streaming clone similar to NFL Sunday Ticket or the state of cheerleaders on the sidelines.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in this league, a lot of low-hanging fruit,” Ambrosie said. And for a day in Vancouver, one of the places in the league where he is needed the most, he wasn’t finding much opposition among the converted once again.



Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (174 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

24 Comments on Ambrosie admits flaws, charms Lions fans on league-wide tour

  1. Yes – every business has problems

    The biggest I can see – – – CFL needs to pack the houses , attendance is dropping off , majorly

    • They said that last night, butts in seats is the #1 priority, but league attendance was only down 50 per game vs 2016, so its not in a free fall. BC, Montreal and Toronto have huge workloads ahead of them, but the league gets it and is collaborating to see what is working and not working in each market and sharing that, for the first time ever it seems

      • You can’t use the “league attendance was only down 50 per game” line. Attendance was skewed by the Riders moving into their new stadium and a larger stadium.
        You also can’t use the year by year comparison.
        Toronto down from 16k to 13k, that’s a free fall from 5 years ago. The Als down to 18k from 23k a couple of years ago. The Lions down substantially from a couple of years ago from 28k to 19k.
        YES it is in FREE FALL in BC, Montreal and Toronto over the past 3 seasons.
        To ignore the 3 cities and say that the league is healthy just because Sask drives up attendance? that’s crazy!!!

  2. Footballnut // February 9, 2018 at 10:09 am //

    The lions need to get some Canadian players and market them! Kids in bc don’t know who Jennings is and they can’t relate to the American players. The lions have missed out on many bc bred players over the last decade or so . The kids here all watch Seahawks it seems or patriots – not lions

    • Footballnut you are contradicting your self. You said kids can’t relate to American players but watch the Sea hawks a short drive or ferry ride away. Stop making sense bud. The kids obviously relate to Americans otherwise they would not watch the Sea Squawks. The answer is less Canadian players. The ratio dumbs down he talent level and the kids know that. They watch Sea hawks because there are no Ratios or Quotas in the NFL and only the best players from wherever play. Just like in the NHL now a majority of players are non Canadian (Americans and Euros mostly). The answer is to hire the best talent available and market the heck out of it. It helps to hire players with a big following already such as Manziel with his 1.8 M twitter follows which is 4 times more people than the population of Hamilton.

      • Well said

        • Jose Perez // February 9, 2018 at 1:43 pm //

          Totally agree. Need best players explosiveness both sides of the ball. They relate to NFL because the hype behind it they have the money they have a video game. Once the video game came into market the viewing numbers for teens went up. That’s how kids related more to the NFL it’s a marketing scheme. We need a bad ass video game that should be created by 2ksports an up grade from Allpro football 2K8.
          We need better marketing strategy we need better advertising to the younger crowd. I look at that stale Safeway commercial for CFL and it yells old at me and very boring. TSN needs to step in and try something exciting. Graphic wise. Half time needs to be entertaining and eye catching for all ages. To improve the game it goes beyond just players ratios. It’s the entertainment behind it all and on and off the field.
          I do agree with better players instead of ratio.

    • I don’t believe that, they need to relate to players, regardless of nationality, but there are TONS of Lions that are involved in the community year round, Elimimian, Rainey, Lulay, Jeremiah Johnson, Lumabla, Arceneaux, Roh are all out year round visiting schools, community programs, Children’s hospitals, etc. The Lions are by FAR the most community oriented team in Vancouver and get the least amount of credit for it…

    • Kids relate to players – not because they are Canadians.
      Look at the popularity of the NBA, NFL, MLB and MLS, you think kids care that there are not many Canadians playing?
      Just look at the stats in Toronto – the weakest attendance and least sports interest is the team that has a “Canadian” ratio – seems that less Canadians and no ratio would bring out MORE fans

  3. Randy Ambrosie is one big hypocrite. 1. Telling players to have second jobs yet touting the CFL as a top rank pro league and showing Masoli working out in Cali. Second jobs mean you are Semi Pro Randman. 2. Making quick sweeping changes over the summer yet taking sweet time on Manziel evaluation (could have been done in 3 weeks) and saying no time to change NFL option tryout rule. 3. Telling players to honour contracts yet teams cutting players left and right on the drop of the hat thus NOT honouring contracts. Not to mention not paying bonus’s as per the Orridge situation which is again not honouring contracts. 4. Treating Americans like dispensable labour such as Wiler yet willing to move season up to May to accommodate a possible new USA market only NFL Network TV deal. Are Americans important or not? Which is it. Not to mention treating Manziel with different rules from other players with a similar background (ie Riders RB) and like a criminal which he is not he has no Criminal charges. All dropped. Yet Masoli gets a pass for 2 guilty pleas in Oregon 2010. Beginning to sour on this hypocritical clown.

    • Fair points! League needs to get the value of each franchise to a level that the prestige factor is relevant. To owners……could be done with more professional leadership in CFL…..but many forces working against turning the CFL into a property deserving of the $ and presence of a top flight pro football league.

      It’s right there….but the ratio needs to go…..season should shift more towards spring…..10th franchise is US based…..find a home on the NFL network as it is the home of pro football now…..credibility comes with this…they might stream games as an experiment to what NFL may eventually do.

      Don’t mean this to be about Canadian pride. Shouldn’t’t be. Dont be that “little guy” driving the big truck to compensate. Embrace change and make pro football the best it can be everywhere….that’s why we love it!

      • By the mid 2000s they were making NCAA college Hockey the IT game. Now the Frozen Four is a close second to the Basketball final four. Now you see the results. If trend continues the Americontent will match Canadians at some point in the future. All done with no ratios, quotas, or help from big brother. This was organic and 100% merit based. These Yanks deserve their slots. Could be the same with football in Canada but it starts with letting the best players play and the kids will follow.

    • You’re an idiot

    • yes and it’s funny how he is preaching to the choir –
      “200-odd hand-picked season ticket holders” it was the same across Canada, season ticket holders who are older, and don’t want the league to change.
      The CFL needs big changes to stop the leaks in the 3 biggest cities.
      The league will never attract millenials, very few high school kids are playing football and they don’t identify with it.
      Why keep the Canadian ratio? as an ex-“O” lineman who was given the job preference because he was Canadian, he will never change the ratio.
      The only way to bring the fans back to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver is to end the ratio and bring in MORE exciting talented players –

  4. JC … the fear is there will be no Canadians left in the league. I don’t believe this for a second. The ratio should be phased out slowly but in the meantime colleges and junior leagues should react by upgrading training. Is there an example to follow? You bet. The year before the initial expansion the NHL had 2% American players in a 6 team league. Now Americans take up 25% in a 31 soon 32 team league. The rest is 49% cana and the rest Euros. More jobs for everybody. Did the NHL have Americon rules? No. What they did is take a highly talented workforce mostly Canadians and then after the Wall came down a flood of Communist bloc players and roll it out across America. Kids cheered for players with English, French and Russian last names in unlikely places like Phoenix. Then these kids begged there parents to play.

    • The ratio must end, we are trying to maintain too many positions in a sport where fewer kids are playing every year.
      We haven’t had a CIS MOP in 50 years!! –
      CFL fans get upset when you say “Bush League” but as long as we guarantee Canadians jobs it will be perceived that way.
      Come on Mr Ambrosie take a risk, end the ratio make our Canadians compete one on one and the best player for the job. You will see fans take notice in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, attendance will increase.

  5. The mid 2000s they were making NCAA college Hockey the IT game. Now the Frozen Four is a close second to the Basketball final four. Now you see the results. If trend continues the Americontent will match Canadians at some point in the future. All done with no ratios, quotas, or help from big brother. This was organic and 100% merit based. These Yanks deserve their slots. Could be the same with football in Canada but it starts with letting the best players play and the kids will follow.

  6. if he gets a 10th franchise and the players get a good raise, all else will be forgotten.

    • How does a 10th franchise help give players a raise???
      It would mean MORE Canadians are needed to fill the ratio in a league where they are struggling to find talented Canadians.
      If anything losing the Argos and going to 8 teams would make the league stronger.
      Besides, Halifax will never get a CFL sized stadium, there is zero chance that the region/province will fund a 24k stadium for a team that plays 9 games a year.

  7. Ambrosie is on the RIGHT TRACK is turning the league around BUT needs the cooperation of all the teams, networks ie: TSN, CBC, ESPN and possibly the NFL network to quit doing the same old same old etc. Change has to take place in every facet of the league for it to be successful financially for all the teams and the players. If the NFL suddenly bought the CFL it would be like night and day pronto. Not going to happen so the CFL needs to make those changes themselves as soon as possible for everyone’s sake!!

    • How is he turning the league around? attendance will dropped in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
      The overall attendance was skewed by the Riders moving into their new stadium.
      The NFL network? what are you talking about? it’s ESPN that has CFL rights. The CBC will never bid on the CFL, TSN needs the CFL and won’t let it go.
      TV viewership is dropping and more people are “streaming”
      WHY would the NFL – “suddenly” buy the CFL???
      please get back to reality

    • Jim – are you serious?
      you sound like one of his hand picked audience members.
      ……”the league needs the cooperation of all teams and networks”……lol
      Please explain that one. Cooperate how? with what?
      Change has to take place in every facet? please explain? what change? do you mean scrapping the ratio? increase ticket prices? marketing? change the start of the season?
      Why would the NFL buy the CFL? is that your answer?

      You say the CFL needs to make those “changes” as soon as possible but you haven’t said WHAT CHANGES??
      come on man stop the nonsense talk.

  8. Answered questions vetted by the Lions management from 200 or so hand picked season ticket holders. Rev. Ambroise seeks advice from the choir.

    • Yes you are right “hand picked” season ticket holders, preaching to the choir and no critics in the audience.
      Nothing new, just keep the CFL running the way it is, don’t touch the ratio etc.
      Meanwhile a steady decrease in attendance in a gate driven league…………
      TV viewership down substantially and the fans watching are older.
      Younger fans don’t watch TV they stream.
      CFL you need to wake up before it’s too late.

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