Edmonton cleans house: Elks fire Presson, Sunderland & Elizondo

The board of directors of the Edmonton Elks Football Club has terminated the contracts of president and CEO Chris Presson, general manager and vice president of football operations Brock Sunderland and head coach Jaime Elizondo, effective immediately.

After considerable discussion and consideration, the Board of Directors determined that major changes at the senior leadership level were needed to improve performance and rebuild the trust and confidence of Elks fans, season seat holders and the community, said Ian Murray, Chair of the Board of Directors.

“I would like to thank Chris for his commitment to the Elks and wish him well in his future endeavours. Chris has been a very hard working and respected leader for our organization through some very difficult times,” said Murray in a press release.

“Brock has been with the club since 2017 and a committed member of the CFL since 2004, while Jaime was in his first season as a head coach and I know he cares deeply about the team.

“All three have contributed a lot to the CFL and the game of football and I’d like to thank them all for their time spent with our club.”

The board has begun a search for permanent replacements of the CEO and general manager positions. In the interim, Allan Watt, the team’s executive director of marketing, has been named Interim Chief Operating Officer.

“Allan has a long history with our organization and the community. His understanding of the Edmonton sports market is second to none. I’d like to thank him for his willingness to continue to support our organization and steward the Club through this transition period,” said Murray.

The board is aggressively working to have a new CEO in place by the end of January. Talent acquisition firm Gallagher, previously Optimum Talent, has agreed to donate their services to the club.

As well, the Board has contracted long-time CFL player, coach, GM and executive Wally Buono to consult and advise the club in hiring a new general manager, who is expected to be named before the end of 2021, so the team is well-prepared for the beginning of free agency in February.

“Wally is unrivalled as a winner in this league and we have every confidence that with his help we will find the general manager that will lead this team back to excellence,” said Murray.

The Elks finished at the bottom of the West Division with a 3-11 record in 2021 and lost eight consecutive games in the middle of their season. They dropped their regular season finale to the B.C. Lions by a score of 43-10, which was their third contest in seven days due to the rescheduling of one of their games.

Edmonton was the only team in the CFL to suffer an outbreak of COVID-19 during the 2021 season, which was just one of the many off-field issues they faced.

“We are determined to give this community the competitive team long-time loyal fans have been accustomed to throughout this proud franchise’s history,” said Interim Chief Operating Officer Allan Watt. “We are equally committed to winning over new fans by supporting our community and developing a fun and engaging game experience that appeals to the broad demographic of our great city.”

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