Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie believes it’s not the time for bold statements and specific timelines regarding the contingency plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Really, everything is on the table and nothing has been decided. I don’t think it would be fair for anybody to say that anything is certain at this point on any issue, really. We’re listening to a lot of really smart people, we’ve got a great team of medical experts helping guide us. But one of the things we’re certain of is that there’s very few things that are certain,” Ambrosie told The Canadian Press.
“The challenge we all face today, and it’s on both a personal and business level, is the list of things we know is far shorter than the list of things we don’t. At this stage, what we’re trying to do is collect data, we’re trying to install good process, we’re working on creating a framework for how all of these things will be evaluated.”
As of March 19 at 6:30 p.m. eastern time, there are 846 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada. On January 25, Canada confirmed its first case of COVID-19 related to travel in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization declared the global outbreak of coronavirus a pandemic on March 11. Citizens are being encouraged to self-isolate in order to stop the spread of the disease.
“The most pressing thing we have today is to deal with this crisis. And in everything remind ourselves that we not only have a role to play as a football league but as citizens and how to be good, positive contributors,” Ambrosie said.
“But the way to move quickly is to define how our actions will happen or what has to happen in order to make our actions happen so that you’re not stuck in process later. What the teams and governors have been really supportive of is this idea of building good framework so when it comes time that we know what we need to know, we can take action quickly as required.”
After the completion of the Ontario regional combine March 12, Ambrosie and the league office decided to cancel the remaining regionals in Montreal and Edmonton as well as the national event in Toronto. That was due to the rising COVID-19 concerns in Canada, however, it left a lot of prospects without the chance to perform for CFL scouts.
“The decision wasn’t hard. The reality that we were putting those dreams of playing professional football on hold was very painful for me personally and everyone in the league who recognized it would be hard on the players,” Ambrosie said.
“I think of every kid who’s played this game and trained and been in the gym and up early. I lived that back in my day, all of it kind of targeting around the idea you were about to see the fruits of your labour. It was difficult.”
Next on the CFL calendar is the Global Draft April 16 and the Canadian Draft April 30. CFL training camps are currently scheduled to open May 17 with regular season kick-off set for June 11. The league has been planning for contingencies.
“You just have to live in the moment. For the time being that’s what’s in place. Again, what we’re trying to do is create framework. We’ve always said that one of our core strengths is being nimble, that we can move quickly,” Ambrosie said.
“In the moment, if I’m upset about anything it’s that one of the things our league has stood for is our players have been unsung heroes. Not to what it relates to what they do on the field, it’s how much impact they have in their communities … and I’m just anxious to get back to doing that good work.”
Ambrosie has ordered CFL teams to close facilities to players because at least one team expressed it could be a competitive advantage if other organizations kept their buildings open. Meanwhile, health officials are encouraging social distancing as one method of coronavirus mitigation.
“We want this to be a time where our relationship with our players can elevate. If there ever was a phrase that we’re all in this together, boy, this is it,” Ambrosie said.
“Of course, down the road there’ll be time for football again. But today our attention is on doing the right things and being good citizens of Canada and our global community.”