Argos president Bill Manning wants nine ownership groups to align for stronger CFL

Screenshot courtesy: Toronto Argos

Toronto Argonauts president Bill Manning wants every franchise in the CFL to pull together.

In the aftermath of a cancelled 2020 season, unanimous was not a word used to describe how the final board of governors vote went down. Manning believes the league and its power brokers must unite for the greater good instead of just thinking about what’s best individually for each team.

“There’s a big difference in the ownership groups and the outlook amongst the nine teams, it’s important that we re-examine how we’re doing business and how we’re sharing within this league. You have three major markets that all essentially struggle, especially at the gate, and you have some wildly successful franchises,” Manning said on TSN 1050 radio in Toronto.

“Like some of the other leagues, how can we better align all the groups so that as a whole the CFL is much stronger? We cannot have another situation like we had in Montreal where the owner just hands in the keys. It’s really important that the three major market franchises can play on equal standing with the other teams.”

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated the CFL is absolutely committed to playing in 2021 and he wants to run the league differently than it has been in the past: more cooperative ecosystem off the field; more sharing of resources; more unified organization. Put all of that together and it could allow the league to thrive collectively.

“There’s a lot of reasons why we believe this is a great opportunity for the league to reset itself. We’ve been going through a reset with the Argos the last few years from a business operations standpoint. The league itself, this is the best opportunity we have now over the next eight or nine months to reset this league, and make sure that we’re in much stronger financial setting,” Manning said.

After the Canadian federal government denied the league a $30 million interest-free loan, the BOG decided against accepting money with interest rates attached and owners funding the season. Winnipeg had tentatively been chose as the league’s hub city if a season happened with the province of Manitoba willing to kick in $2.5 million, but it wasn’t to be.

“It was a roller coaster. In the beginning, our franchise, we were a bit skeptical of receiving any government funding and we were skeptical of the hub to start with. And then as we learned more about the plan, and we looked at whether it’s better to cancel the season or to play, we really came around to playing — thought it would be best for the Argos with minimal risk and it just didn’t happen,” Manning said.

The league and CFL Players’ Association had carved out a health and safety plan to both sides liking as well as the provincial and federal governments. Plus, there were positive steps made towards the financial aspects of the COVID-19 collective bargaining agreement. Manning was on the player relations committee and feels the partnership feeling needs to be used to work in harmony moving forward.

“It’s very important that we improve our relations with the players’ association. I’ve sat on the most recent negotiations and I was pleasantly surprised. I had heard that it was antagonistic and it wasn’t. There’s a lot of room there to grow and really strengthen that relationship,” Manning said.

“When you look at the strongest leagues, they’re in lockstep with their players. That’s something that’s very important and we look forward to improving that, and growing it, and having a league where we’re in lockstep with our players.”