The new owner of the B.C. Lions has wasted no time in identifying new ways to help restore his team’s relevance on the local and national level.
“When you start cutting costs in a football organization and you touch marketing, which I think was a little underinvested, that hurts,” said Amar Doman on The Sport Market. “I’ve gotta put my money where my mouth is, which I’m prepared to do here and start those marketing efforts.
“They take time to galvanize, but I can tell you that from what I’m reading on social media, the emails I’ve been getting, the text messages from friends of friends, there’s something special going on here. People want to see this happen.”
David Braley passed away in October 2020 after owning the Lions for 23 years. Though B.C. experienced a strong resurgence from 2004-2012, attendance has declined by over 30 percent over the past decade as the team’s relevance in the marketplace has languished.
“Mr. Braley is obviously in the (Canadian Football) Hall of Fame and should be. He was a wonderful gentleman, I had a good time negotiating with him well before he passed away,” said Doman.
“Quite frankly, he was ill the last few years and just couldn’t put the effort in. He wanted to but he just couldn’t. I think when you’re not present as a local owner, it just does make it difficult for the fan base to relate. Whether we like that or not, it just is. It’s different.”
While Braley made his permanent home in Burlington, Ont., Doman was born in Victoria and is now a resident of West Vancouver. He was formally introduced as the new owner of the Lions last week and has since received a strong response to his purchase of the team.
“The support and enthusiasm and commentary has been nothing short of first-class. I’ve got a great initial reception into the CFL and the fan base, so my thanks goes back out to everybody,” said Doman.
“Having the local presence of myself and the business community and the connections I have, we’re going to leverage every single little bit of those relationships. I have a lot of employees in B.C. that are very passionate about football and sports in general. We’re going to leverage that.”
Doman, a father of three young children who are football fans, also plans to use the school system to drum up interest in the team.
“We’re already talking about having B.C. Lions days in B.C. If it’s game day on a Thursday or a Friday at school, I want orange and black everywhere and I want it to be rallied. Sometimes back in the day the Canucks used to do that. Why aren’t we doing these things? I think those types of ingredients are gonna be big differences from the past ownership.”
The CFL is at a crossroads coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the cancellation of the 2020 season. Doman feels the league and his team have an opportunity to see big growth moving forward as we navigate through the latter portion of this challenging time.
“I don’t want to say that we have an unpolished gem here but sort of do. It feels like the fans and the community were looking and waiting and it came out so suddenly that it caught everybody by surprise, but in a good way,” said Doman.
“I think we’re really starting to see people that really feel good about sports in general, they’re fired up about the Lions. They’re sort of coming out of the closet, if you will, and from areas where you wouldn’t think they were out there.”
Vancouver has become a hotbed of support for the Seattle Seahawks, but Doman doesn’t see the NFL as competition to the CFL because the markets, traditions, and games are so different.
“We have to focus on Canadian football. It’s a great game and we have to get the youth involved,” said Doman. “We should have junior practices where the kids are all wearing orange and black. We introduce that, then we start offering tickets to schools and we go around the Lower Mainland or the Interior, bring people down, those are things I’m going to invest money into.”
“No disrespect to the past ownership, but those activities just weren’t happening. I’m prepared to invest in that but that’s a long-term return. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you gotta push it out forward and that’ll come back to you.”
Doman identifies his five-year goals as boosting local attendance, reaching youth, and making a positive impact in the community. He went as far as to say that selling out the whole stadium at some point over the next five years would make him “the happiest guy on earth.”