The lack of certainty surrounding the 2021 CFL season may be testing fans’ patience, but that’s not the type of testing Randy Ambrosie is worried about.
After breaking his radio silence late last week, the commissioner was back again Friday, this time joining guest host Rick Zamperin on 900 CHML radio in Hamilton. The topic of the day, as per usual, was the CFL’s return to play strategy and Ambrosie spoke candidly about the costs associated.
“They blow you away. Each team, based on our current plan, will face a very large number as it relates to testing and basic health care protocols” Ambrosie revealed.
“We’re doing the work on it because when we talk with government we want to have a very clear and transparent message to send about what those economic impacts are going to be for us.”
Just how much can teams expect to shell out to keep players safe in this year? Ambrosie remained vague, but admitted the amount would easily exceed a million dollars per franchise.
“It’s definitely a seven-figure issue per team and a little north of there to be honest,” the commissioner disclosed. “It’s a seven-figure-plus investment if you want to get back on the field.”
Testing has become the cost of doing business during a global pandemic, but despite the financial drain on a league that already lost between $60 and $80 million last year, the CFL is pushing forward.
Ambrosie praised the cooperative spirit of recent discussions with the CFL Players’ Association and confirmed reports that their agreed-upon health and safety protocols would be tabled to various levels of government in the coming days.
“It’s the old saying, ‘You only have one chance to make a good first impression.’ The idea was to do all the build up, have the plan buttoned down, tested and re-tested, and then take it to the provinces,” Ambrosie said.
“We’re being methodical. There’s a full plan and it’s just about ready to go and hit prime time. We’ll start talking to the provinces in the very near future. We expect those conversations with the provinces, because we’ve done such good work, to be very constructive.”
There remains plenty of other issues to address before the CFL can hit the field in 2021, chief among them the presence of fans in the stands. The prevailing wisdom is the league’s main source of revenue needs to return in order for players to take the field and that decision will come down to provincial health orders and vaccination rates.
“It’s certainly very difficult if you can’t have fans in the stands,” Ambrosie admitted. “Are we talking two or three weeks of games without fans or are you talking the entire season?”
“It’s all about contingency planning. We’re looking at every single scenario, we’re figuring out how to make it work, and we’re talking to key stakeholder groups about what they can do to help us.”
However, unlike 2020 where the season’s cancellation hinged on government support, Ambrosie refuses to allow one aspect of the 2021 plan determine its outcome.
“We’re not going to let any one single issue stand in our way. We want to plan for every possibility. The commitment is to do everything possible to have a great and full CFL season,” he insisted.
“We’re thinking about everything thru this lens of maximum flexibility. We have to be ready to adjust and adapt at a moment’s notice and be able to adjust on the fly.”
Even in the face of a slow vaccine rollout and massive potential expenditures for teams, the commissioner remains relentlessly optimistic about the upcoming season.
“The word guarantee is difficult,” Ambrosie said. “But I feel very, very good today that we are on track to play football this year.”