CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has all but guaranteed that the CFL will be expanding to ten teams in the near future.
Speaking with Joey Alfieri of the Montreal Alouettes, Ambrosie was asked on a scale of one to ten what the likelihood of CFL expansion was in the short-term. The commissioner chose to go off the board with his answer.
“It’s an 11,” Ambrosie insisted. “You asked on a scale of one to 10, I think it’s the wrong scale.”
The CFL unveiled tentative plans for a tenth franchise ahead of the 2018 Grey Cup, pegging Halifax as the desired port of call for the long-awaited Atlantic Schooners. An ownership group led by Gary Drummond, Schooner Sports and Entertaiment, managed to secure $20 million in government funding to build a stadium in the city and had been hopeful to begin play in 2022, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused local government to discontinue the stadium funding project last year.
Plans for a team cannot proceed without a professional quality venue and government support, leading many to fear that the proposed team would go the way of the original 1982 Schooners, sinking before ever setting sail.
However, a renewed buzz surrounding the recently announced return of the CFL’s Touchdown Atlantic game has put hope back in the sails. The event could prove critical for the future of expansion and some feel it will be the catalyst needed to finally secure the franchise.
Ambrosie seems to believe that such an outcome is already in hand thanks to the league’s careful work over a difficult few years.
“The one thing that we’ve done over this past few years is we’ve really learned and we’re taking a very methodical approach to expansion. We brought in some experts to help guide us and help us build the right model,” he explained.
“We’re talking to, I believe, the right group with Schooner Sports and Entertainment and our approach will be to take all of what we’ve learned to build a really strong strategy for expansion, take that to our governors to get their full support, and then take that out to all of the important stakeholders and show them how bringing the CFL into that region can be a real benefit long term. I have tremendous optimism because we’re doing the work.”
A tenth franchise is vitally important to the CFL as a way to expand revenue and balance the schedule, but, ever the dreamer, Ambrosie sees a future in which the league can get even larger.
Asked if the CFL could eventually get to 12 teams, Ambrosie pointed to Quebec City as a viable possibility, but noted that was a long ways away.
“Somebody said to me one day: ‘You can’t get to 12 until you get to 10,” he grinned.
“Mr. [Jacques] Tanguay, I think has done a remarkable thing with the [Laval University] Rouge et Or and you have to look at that. There’s always a thought to Quebec City, but of course, that’s something that we have to give some thought to and obviously, it’s not on our radar today.”
A maritime franchise is however, and if Ambrosie’s comments are any indication, that will be turning from thoughts to reality soon.