Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has admitted it’s a difficult task to get all the CFL teams on the same page.
The 57-year-old has been the lead man for the league for parts of five years and sees similarities between his role and one particular job on the global stage.
“I think sometimes this is the perfect training ground to become the secretary-general of the United Nations and I chuckle to myself about that from time to time. It’s complicated because the three team structures all have different priorities,” Ambrosie said on 620 CKRM’s The SportsCage.
The late David Braley and his estate, Bob Young, Roger Greenberg, and Gary Stern are the individual owners. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Football Team are community owned. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment owns the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Sports and Entertainment owns the Stampeders.
There are four privately owned teams, three community owned organizations, and two corporately owned franchises. At the best of times, it’s tricky to balance all nine wants and needs from coast to coast, and the global COVID-19 pandemic has complicated matters. The board of governors voted against playing in 2020, which has put immense pressure on the league office to return to play in 2021.
“I have had a chance to chuckle from time to time thinking that if very early in 2017 when I got a phone call from then-board chair Jim Lawson talking about this job, if he would’ve told me we’d have a pandemic, I might have had a totally different answer to whether I was interested in this job or not,” Ambrosie said.
“To be honest, it has been a really trying time, but I remind myself that there are a lot of Canadians who have suffered through a lot of hardship during this time. I’m so very happy and honoured to be the guy that’s been asked to lead us through this. Losing a little sleep is the least of my worries.”
Massive financial losses in the $60 to $80 million range have the CFL trying to find a way to play in this year. The CFL unveiled its 2021 schedule back in November and the pre-season is scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 23, while the regular season is slated to get underway on Thursday, June 10.
“We are committed to an 18-game schedule. I’m excited that we’ll get our players back on the field. I’m excited to think we’ll get our fans back in the stadium. But was also know that we have to be ready to be adaptable,” Ambrosie said.
“Maybe we play a few games without fans to get the season started and maybe from there we play with some fans and then the number of fans grows. We don’t have the kind of deep pockets that the other leagues do.”
The decision to cancel last season came after the federal government refused support for a $30 million interest-free loan to fund a hub city in Winnipeg. The league’s precarious financial position might require government support once again. Unlike 2020 however, the CFL won’t leave it all up to a hand out.
“We just have to be creative and that’s something we’re prepared to do,” Ambrosie said. “We are going to kick-off on June the 10th, that’s our plan. We’re going to play 18 games and we’re going to have a Grey Cup in Hamilton.”
Ambrosie has to have all nine teams pulling the same direction for Canadian football to return to play in 2021.