‘Our fans deserve the best team, the best venue and the best results’: new Redblacks’ president Adrian Sciarra

Courtesy: OSEG/Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography

Despite being new to his role as the president of the Ottawa Redblacks and Ottawa 67’s, Adrian Sciarra isn’t new to the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

In fact, he’s been with OSEG since 2013 when he served as the vice-president of partnerships and merchandise sales. He’s gradually taken on more responsibilities over the past decade with this latest promotion coming as a natural evolution of his time with the organization. Sciarra will no longer be dividing his attention between other aspects of OSEG’s business, instead focusing entirely on the sports teams.

“The last 18 months specifically, I’ve worked very closely with [Redblacks’] general manager Shawn Burke and [67’s general manager] James Boyd. I’ve gradually been relinquishing some of my other responsibilities to focus entirely on the two teams,” said Sciarra. “The big difference with me in this role is that I’ll be focused 100 percent day in, day out entirely on the Redblacks and 67’s — nothing else.”

CEO Mark Goudie made the change to recognize Sciarra’s expanded role with the sports teams and allow him to direct more of his efforts to bringing Lansdowne 2.0 to life. The revitalization project centres upon the replacement of TD Place Stadium’s north side stands as well as the 56-year old Civic Centre, which is the current home of the 67’s and the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Blackjacks.

“You can imagine why it’s a priority for us to continue the Lansdowne development, and although Mark will lead that on behalf of OSEG, I’ll be involved to the extent that it impacts our sports teams. That means I’ll have a say in the design and planning of the new arena and events centre and our upgraded or rebuilt North Side. Basically, I’m going to be looking out for the best interests of our sports teams and their respective fan bases.”

A graduate of McMaster University with an honours bachelor of commerce, Sciarra boasts a wide variety of experience in the sports and entertainment industry. Prior to joining OSEG, he spent 15 years combined as director of client services at Landmark Sport Group, manager of sponsorship and licensing with Nascar Canada, and vice-president of commercial assets with the CFL.

Sciarra has some ideas he’d like to implement in his new role, though he’s quick to note that his overarching vision won’t differ much from what R-Nation has seen from previous Redblacks presidents.

“We expect and will strive to be perpetually competitive. That means having a chance to win every time we take the field. For me, that entails spending to the salary cap, being aggressive in free agency, and allowing Burke to do his job. While I talk to him every day, he’s the one calling the shots on who to sign, making trades, drafting players, etc. My job is to give him the tools he needs to be successful,” said Sciarra.

“I want our organization to always do things the right way. That means treating people right, building our foundations properly, and investing in the right things. That’s what all good businesses have in common.”

Sciarra is well aware that the Redblacks have to earn the trust of the fan base following some challenging years. The club went 0-9 at home this past season — the first time Ottawa went winless at Lansdowne since 1934 — and missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

“We can’t just say to fans: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be better.’ We have to go to work every day and put in the effort. We went into last season with a lot of optimism but things didn’t work out the way we wanted. We’ve made plenty of changes and I’m confident that those moves, along with our hard work, will pay off in 2023,” said Sciarra.

“Believing that winning cures all is too simplistic. Winning and giving hope to our fans is crucial, but we have to do everything else right, too. That means smart ticketing strategies, excellent game presentation, investing in pre-game activities like live music, having special beer prices, timely communication with our fans, sharp branding, continuing with strong online content such as our Behind the R video series and so on.

“The entire product of the Redblacks must be run properly. We’re only on the field 18 days a year, but running a successful team, engaging our fans and building the R-Nation community is a 365-day, full-year task.”

Since joining OSEG a decade ago, Sciarra has always been heavily involved with the team’s various uniforms: the signature look, rebrands with different suppliers, and last season’s notched R helmet decal (pictured). When asked if R-Nation can expect anything new in terms of how the team will look aesthetically, he notes that he’s always looking for ways to keep things fresh.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

“I think it’s important to remember that when it comes to uniforms and jerseys, you can’t think year to year, but rather keep a longer-term vision in mind. We’ve noticed how fans have responded positively to the notched R, both with the decal and in terms of merchandise, so it’s safe to say that won’t go away. As for new uniforms, while I can’t confirm or deny anything, I will note that 2024 is the tenth anniversary of our franchise, so that’s something significant that we would like to mark.”

Talking with Sciarra, it’s hard to miss his enthusiasm about the job that lies before him. As a sports executive, it’s impossible not to bring work home — both the good and bad.

“I’ve been here a decade and seen the highest highs and lowest lows. The joy of winning a Grey Cup and hosting sold-out playoff games are special memories that stick with you forever. On the flip side, losing eats away at you. You’re so invested that when the team struggles, you really feel it,” he said.

“My wife would tell you that I’m not a lot of fun on a weekend if we lose a Friday night game but as an executive, you need to absorb those bad moments and then move on. As much as you take things home with you, you need to shake it off the next day and get back to work.”

The emotional investment that the job entails is something that Sciarra has always cherished. For him, the sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing a rocking, sold-out stadium full of cheering fans generates the same feelings of pride that come following wins.

“Those are the moments I’ll be chasing as I come to work every day,” he said. “Our fans deserve the best team, the best venue and the best results and that’s what we’re hoping to deliver.”

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).