“It’s ‘Game of Thrones’ over there” in the CFL league office: Arash Madani

There aren’t nine families waging war within the CFL league office, but there are two distinct sides and one key member is currently holding the power — commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

After the 2020 season was cancelled in Canada, the league terminated a number of staffers and furloughed many others due to the COVID-19 financial crisis.

“It’s Game of Thrones over there, and you’re either on Randy’s side or you’re not. For the first time there is a splinter in the armour,” Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani said on The Rod Pedersen Show.

The most prominent name to be furloughed is vice president, football operations and player safety. Kevin McDonald. He has worked for the league for almost 20 years and is one of its longest-serving staff members. The Kingston native has a unique perspective and understanding of football in Canada.

“You understand that tough business decisions have to be made, but since Randy Ambrosie has taken over, he has minimized Kevin McDonald’s role, he has undermined Kevin McDonald’s role, he has removed him from the executive council — and that’s the job of player safety,” Madani said as Pedersen reacted by putting his head in hand just like the SMH emoji.

“So don’t come to me and say player safety is paramount when you have an opportunity now to really take this to the next level and really study what other people are doing and spend time with NFL teams and college teams and with helmet manufacturers and equipment folks, and then you go furlough them.”

Madani states McDonald has critical “institutional knowledge” and always maintains a trusted relationship with football personnel people around the three-down league. The Wilfrid Laurier University graduate was an OUA all-star quarterback for the Golden Hawks in the mid-1990s and coached at Queen’s University and Mount Allison University prior to joining the league office in 2001.

“When you speak with head coaches, and when you speak with general managers, they don’t have a lot of good things to say about the league office when it comes to how they go about football operations, how the discipline process is handled, how replay review is handled — all of that,” Madani said.

“But the one thing that is almost unanimous is people say, ‘Hey, I got time for Kevin, he listens, he gets it, he understands.’ That’s good to know. In a league where relationships are so important, that’s a big one.”