‘Wallflower’ Lions owner Amar Doman intends to be ‘more vocal’ at next board of governors’ meeting

B.C. Lions owner Amar Doman has been on the job for just over half a year and he’s ready to start pushing his weight around.

The charismatic Vancouver business-man is already nose to the grindstone when it comes to building a more community-oriented Lions organization, but took a strategic back seat in some of his earliest league meetings. When the board of governors meet for their next round of off-season talks, the newcomer is ready to let his opinions be known.

“I’ve been at my first meeting and I was a bit of a wallflower there, just kind of learning what’s going on, the styles, and really being fortunate to meet everyone not on a Zoom call and in person,” Doman said in an appearance on The SportsCage in Regina.

“The next one’s coming up in two weeks in Toronto, which I will be attending with the rest of the governors. I’ve got some thoughts on the agenda and certainly I’ll be a little bit more vocal with certain things that we’re going to be voting on.”

With the league facing a number of challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from dipping attendance in several markets to new US-based competitors, commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated that everything is on the table for re-evaluation over the next few years.

That list includes essential elements of the CFL’s unique rulebook, including three-downs and Canadian content. On that last point, Doman says he will be raising his voice.

“Guys are saying we’ve got to look at everything, but that ratio has to be there in a strong form. I don’t know exactly what that [appropriate] ratio number is, but of course it’s important, of course it has to be preserved,” the Lions owner insisted, though he added he would not oppose discussions regarding tweaking the rule.

“Does it have to be 50/50, 60/40, 30/70? Who knows what that number is, but I think it just should be discussed and reviewed like all rules in all leagues around the world.”

Any issue brought before the board of governors is bound to be contentious given the CFL’s reputation for having one of the most complex leadership dynamics in pro sports. All nine governors bring big egos to the table in a league where the margin for votes is razor thin and all have different motivations.

Doman is one of two private owners, while four teams have ownership groups with corporate backers. The remaining three teams — Edmonton, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg — are community-owned, giving them a unique set of priorities. As a grass-roots football advocate, Doman loves that dynamic but also admits that it has challenges.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh geez, the CFL’s got these community-owned teams, that means no one wants ’em.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, it’s the opposite.’ You can’t buy them. There’s no price and the communities will not let them go because of the passion,” he said.

“I’m out already talking up that, but it does complicate things a little bit as those boards change every couple years, to get continuity with, let’s call it, mindsets. I think that it’s a healthy thing to have fresh eyeballs but too soon all the time may paralyze the league a little bit. That’s something that I’m gonna learn and work through to understand that better.”

Doman has a bold vision for the future of Lions and the CFL as a whole, but will have to learn to navigate the boardroom dynamics to accomplish his goals. It’s a challenge he welcomes, with a reverence for those who came before.

“It’s a real honour to be part of Canadian history by being on the board of governors of the CFL,” he said. “First of all, I’m honoured and second of all, the sleeves will start to get rolled up and we’ll dig in a little bit deeper as I get my feet wet.”