Randy Ambrosie laments initial government ask: ‘That’s the now famous or infamous $150 million’

Unlike United States president Donald Trump, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is admitting his mistakes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a major difference between the two: Trump has seen over 170,000 Americans die due to the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Ambrosie wasn’t able to put Canadian football on the field in 2020, but no lives were lost in the process.

“I would concede this virus has been terrible for us. We’re watching on the world stage today, we’re watching a leader who accepts no responsibility for anything other than just the good things,” Ambrosie said on Tim and Sid.

“I won’t be that guy, I just will not play that card, ever. If there’s a reason or a feeling that we have things that didn’t go the way they should, and there’s blame to be laid, it has to come to me. That is the responsibility that I bear.”

Ambrosie has watched the game film and seen where errors were made during his part of the CFL’s attempt at returning to play. Hasty decisions made leading into the night of Thursday, May 7 caused damage the league could never recover from as they tried for a shortened season. That’s the evening Ambrosie presented to the Canadian federal government’s standing committee on finance.

“That’s the now famous or infamous $150 million. Which by the way, we never asked for $150 million. Our ask behind that was really broken into phases and it started with $30 million dollars, which is what we said we would need to get a season started,” Ambrosie said.

“It turned out that was the amount of money that we were really talking about. If I could go back I would’ve started there, we overstated this big idea that we threw out that number. And that number caused an awful lot of disruption for us and I regret following that particular advice. We could have done far better by coming in just focusing on 2020.”

After Ambrosie made his statement, members of parliament, including noted Saskatchewan Roughriders follower Kevin Waugh, asked Ambrosie about the details of his request for federal aid. There was no plan for how the potential funds would be used and no mention of the athletes. He was taken to task for not having the players accounted for, or included in the meeting.

“We did never at any point want to disrespect our players, but we felt like we needed to get to government quickly and talk about the potential damage COVID would bring to the league. I wish we would’ve just talked to the players right up front about going to the government for financial support,” Ambrosie said.

Ever since Ambrosie fumbled and stumbled his way through the league’s ask for up to $150 million in May, it was clear the CFL wanted a handout from the Canadian government — money on their terms — which was denied. Even though Winnipeg had tentatively been chosen as the league’s hub city, the boards of governors voted to cancel pro three-down football this year.

“When we went to government originally, and I do think this was a bit of a defining moment, what we were advised to do was to go at them with the biggest picture of how potential damage COVID would do over two years,” Ambrosie said.

“Those are the two things that stand out in my mind that I wish were handled differently. The COVID virus hit us so hard and so quickly. We were in a hurry and I think we would have been better served by slowing down a little bit.”

Ambrosie has plenty of time to take a measured approach for the 2021 season.