CliffsNotes from Randy Ambrosie’s State of the League Address

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie was upbeat and positive today as he spoke to the media today for over an hour in his coffee-fuelled state of the league address.

The league boss addressed a number of important topics, both big and small, as he continued to earn his title of “Salesman in Chief”. Here are the CliffsNotes from his address.

On CFL 2.0:

Ambrosie reiterated his four pillars to the CFL 2.0 initiative and spoke to the early success of each.

On increased cooperation between different groups within the league, he praised the unity and discourse that have made many of his visions possible and brought about the new CBA. Ambrosie also spoke to the need for more to be done to bring coaches and alumni closer into the fold.

He reflected on the importance on growing the game at the grass roots level and the transformative power of playing football. He bemused that football is the only sport with a spot for everyone, referencing the size difference between Brandon Banks and Chris Van Zaeyl.

On global outreach, Ambrosie expressed his pleasure about the rapid growth of the league’s international partnerships. In particular, he championed the 25 players selected in the first ever LFA Canadian Draft as global ambassadors for the sport, league and country.

The commissioner admitted the league didn’t fully know what to expect from Global players but praised the contributions of Globals like Winnipeg’s Thadric Hansen for opening doors. Ambrosie was optimistic about next year’s expanded talent pool giving birth to the league’s first Global star to truly move the needle in the international market.

Ambrosie expressed a particular desire to increase the league’s outreach to new Canadians. He was frank in stating that current business and marketing approaches have not worked and described the need for a more hands on approach championed by players and alumni. He spoke to the desire of new Canadian to feel truly Canadian and how the league needs to be the gateway for that emotional investment.

On thinking big:

The Commissioner was unapologetic for being the “league’s biggest fan” and expressed his feelings that the CFL has always had the potential to be big, but has often been limited by small thinking.

He championed the CFL as “the world’s biggest global football league” thanks to its international partnerships and urged a paradigm shift from the league considering itself the “smallest of two” leagues to the “second biggest of many”.

Ambrosie called upon the recent accomplishments of Bianca Andreescu and the Toronto Raptors to emphasize that Canadian want “big” things, and stated the league was looking to meet that expectation going forward.

On Halifax:

Despite serious hurdles, Ambrosie remains optimistic about a stadium and franchise in Halifax. He also spoke to the importance of Atlantic Canadian fans to the CFL.

On Jonathan Hefney:

The commissioner spoke to the tragedy of the former defensive backs injury and subsequent incarceration. He expressed a need for increased progress on player protections, while also praising the increased protections for Americans written into the new CBA.

On the NFL option window:

Ambrosie expressed the need to negotiate with the NFL immediately following the season in order to firm up an agreement for option year players to be able to sign contracts south of the border.

He addressed the public criticism of the window by Stampeders’ head coach Dave Dickenson, saying the window was reopened thanks to consultation with GMs in the hopes that more players would consider the CFL as an option.

Ambrosie said he would like to see players take advantage of NFL opportunities, but admitted the league could reconsider the policy.

On ownership in Montreal and B.C.:

The commissioner seemed confident that the sale of both teams was on the horizon.

In Vancouver, Ambrosie said he has been involved in communicating with potential owners and has encountered some exceptional candidates.

For Montreal, the commissioner hopes were a deal would be reached within the next few weeks. Limited by a non-disclosure agreement, Ambrosie would not confirm the members of the Montreal ownership group, likely led by the Lenkov brothers, but praised the resurgence of football in La Belle Province.

On relations with player and the CBA:

Ambrosie confirmed that the final language of the CBA has been hammered out and it will soon be available to the public.

He spoke to a “reset” with the players following tense negotiation and expressed positivity concerning his relationship with the CFLPA. He praised them for their input and support, specifically in regards to CFL 2.0.

On coaches pensions:

The commissioner admitted he needed to have a better dialogue with coaches and spoke to their importance within the league. He didn’t rule out the possibility of a coaches pension, but said that coaches needed to have a bigger role in selling the league.

On third string quarterbacks:

Ambrosie assured the media that there would be no rule preventing a team from having three quarterbacks on a roster, but that only two players will be dressed with the “quarterback” ratio designation in an attempt to get more players actively on the field.

He also expressed a willingness to reopen dialogue concerning the rule.

On goal posts at the front of the end zone:

Sorry Rider fans, no change to the goal posts is planned.

Some rule changes will be considered by the competition committee this off-season and the commissioner hopes that rule changes will be tested in pre-season, or “innovation season”, going forward.