CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie admits stats struggles ‘disappointing and frustrating’

Photo courtesy: Ted Pritchard/ All rights reserved.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has changed his tune regarding the ongoing problems with the league’s new statistics system, which have been a blight on an otherwise promising 2023 season.

“It’s been disappointing and frustrating that the system wasn’t up and running the way all of you (fans) deserved from game one, no doubt about it. And we shouldn’t make excuses and hide from that and we’re not,” Ambrosie told the Piffles Podcast.

“It’s not the way it should be and it’s got to get better. We’re talking to the highest levels of Genius (Sports) executive every week and they’re pressing the gas pedal to make improvements. What you can expect is that every week from here through to Grey Cup, you’re going to see improvement week in and week out, more features are going to be made available.”

Ambrosie spoke to the media in June and denied that the new stats system was a failure, classifying it instead as a worthwhile investment in the league’s future. At the time, there were no statistics on the league’s website other than a weekly report that could be viewed as a PDF file. The league’s internal stats system, CFL Connect, was up and running, though it was generally riddled with errors.

At the time, the commissioner estimated that game-day statistics would be functional on the league’s website by early July with player profiles and league-wide statistics being made available later in the month. Player profiles started working by the middle of the July, though league-wide statistics remain unavailable except in the ongoing weekly reports.

Ambrosie indicated that Genius Sports, the league’s technology partner tasked with creating the new system, is currently working on developing the league’s historical stats packages, which remain absent from the CFL’s website. Only statistics from 2023 are available, though fans used to be able to view individual and team stats from as far back as 2004. Ambrosie said the current goal is to have most of the historical stats package done by the time the Grey Cup rolls around in November.

The commissioner also walked back comments he made in June regarding the old stats system, which he called “almost an analog type of system” that couldn’t be upgraded. His comments sparked backlash from SharpHat chief technology officer Cy Lee, who claimed the system his company built for the league in 2016 worked flawlessly and was able to be altered or upgraded as needed.

“It’s not that the old system wasn’t any good, the old system had a lot of functionality. But the package we’re getting from Genius has enormous functionality and it’s also going to enable new features. It’s going to play a big role in our broadcast augmentation strategy, which Genius is going to be a big part of,” said Ambrosie.

“It’s disappointment in the short term. It’s gonna get better week in and week out as we go along. But the long term is going to be that much better because the system has just so many more capabilities in a world where we’re not competing against ourselves, we’re competing against the entire world of sports. We needed to take a big leap forward in what we’re going to be able to present to our great fans and that’s what the Genius system is going to be able to do.”

SharpHat was contracted to build the CFL’s old stats system in 2014 and Lee indicated that it required 6,000 person-hours of development to have it ready when it launched two years later. It appears as though Genius underestimated the amount of time and resources it would take to create the new system, though they have not commented publicly regarding their work with the CFL.

In the meantime, it’s nice to hear Ambrosie speak honestly about the failures of the new system. CFL fans want and deserve up-to-the-minute stats from all the action on the field, which is especially important as the league hopes to lure fantasy players and sports bettors into the CFL arena.

“I don’t want anyone to think we’re being glib or we’re being dismissive,” said Ambrosie. “It’s been disappointing, but again, they’re working hard at it and it’s gonna give us a much better platform going forward.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.