CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has attempted to pour water on the rumours circulating that the league is actively considering a switch to four-down football, but the reporter at the centre of the debate doesn’t buy it.
Sportnet’s Arash Madani was the first to report that the CFL was receiving pressure from its data and technology partner Genius Sports to do away with the iconic three-down game, and he hasn’t been impressed by Ambrosie’s attempts to quell the outrage.
“I’m reminded of Pete Caroll saying that Russell Wilson wouldn’t be traded either, then what? Two weeks later, Russell Wilson’s visiting a hospital in Denver as the new Broncos’ starting quarterback,” Madani said in an appearance on The Sportscage.
“I will tell you this, there have been significant conversations about the possibility of four down football. There have been conversations with teams that in 2023, this could be a possibility. They are not closing any door on anything to do with their game.”
It was reported in December that the league would be reviewing all aspects of its game, including the number of downs. Earlier this week, those fears were reinvigorated following Madani’s accusations towards the CFL’s powerful new partner.
Genius Sports is a sports data and technology company based in the United Kingdom. It owns a minority stake in the league’s new commercial arm, CFL Ventures, which allows it to profit off the revenue it is intended to help create.
The high-profile firm is set to provide everything from tailored marketing research to revolutionary new broadcast technologies, as well as spear-heading the CFL’s approach to legal sports gambling. However, the company denied in a statement that it had provided any input on game-play.
In Madani’s view, Genius Sports’ motivation for pressuring the league has to come with a financial motivation.
“With all the data and analytics and marketing, whatever they’re looking at, is there a belief if they go to four downs that is going to lead to more gambling revenue, more eyeballs watching it south of the border, and a TV deal south of the border that is going to provide money for the teams? That’s what I wonder,” Madani speculated.
No matter the motivation, the report has created panic in the fan base and prompted several prominent CFL figures to vocally oppose the idea. The commissioner has publicly addressed the report and attempted to dispel concerns, but his approach has left a lot to be desired.
“Randy has not come out and said: ‘We are not going to four downs.’ Look, he could very easily end this if it’s not true. He could come out and say: ‘We are committed to playing three downs. We will not be playing four down football,'” Madani insisted.
“Intimating and definitively coming out and saying it are two different things.”
Whether or not Ambrosie ever officially refutes his report, the controversial CFL scribe believes that the league office continues to approach improving their game from the entirely wrong perspective.
“It’s like their business model, it is still about selling tickets two by two. You’re not going to get one thing to change everything,” Madani said. “They’re looking for the magic bullet and it’s not gonna happen with four downs.”