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March 19, 2019

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie answers your questions

 

For a second consecutive year, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is traveling across country to speak to the fans of each team of the league.

Wednesday, joined by Alouettes alum and team President Patrick Boivin, Randy gave Montreal supporters a sneak peek of what they can expect to happen over the next few months in the Canadian football world. After telling a few juicy stories about his rooming days with Pierre – many of them being about the astronomical carb intake of offensive linemen – he discussed the burning topics surrounding the league.

Current situation of the organization, hosting of the Grey Cup, internationalization, development of local talents, player safety, Johnny Manziel affair, Atlantic team and impact of the new American leagues; all the questions were raised, all the answers were provided and all the conversations are summarized here.

 

 

THE CURRENT SITUATION OF THE TEAM

“What we’ve been hearing is more speculative than factual. We’re not shopping for a buyer. In other words, there is no For Sale sign in front of our house. It doesn’t stop people from approaching us, talking to us and asking us questions. Andrew, as a savvy businessman, listens to them. Our owner’s primary goal is to straighten the organization and that’s what we’ve been working on in collaboration with the league. We are striving for Alouettes to be the team you will be proud of for years to come.” – Patrick Boivin, President

“During the Bob Wetenhall era, the Alouettes went to the Grey Cup final eight times, won three times and had 11 players inducted into the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, Pierre is one of them. Everyone in this league knows what this team is capable of, we all want to relive the hype of the winning years, but instead of doing it based on an old model, we want to do it on a new one.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

 

ON MONTREAL HOSTING THE GREY CUP

“I hope it will happen very soon. The presentation Patrick and his management team did was spectacular. It just happened that the three presentations were overwhelmingly good. We gave 2020 to Saskatchewan because of the looming repairs to the Olympic Stadium. When they will be done, we strongly hope Montreal will be bidding again. We will be shifting to a model where we will allocate the GC three years in advance because we believe teams need more time to prepare such an important event.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner


 

THE INTERNATIONALIZATION OF THE LEAGUE

Many of you questioned us about the league’s future and the development of Canadian talent. In Randy’s mind, one can’t go without the other. While a second division dedicated to Canadian players is not in the plans, exploring European and South-American markets is part of the solution to offer our young players more opportunities to play and to prepare for the pros.

“We are finding ways to come out of that humble Canadian league and become a great international league. I strongly believe that if we give the world the opportunity to discover CFL football, they’re going to like it because it’s fun and it’s fast. Not so long ago, we were the smallest of two football-playing countries. Now, we are the second-biggest of 40 football-playing countries. This is our time to redefine our league, redefine our sport. Other countries are asking to join us! Our experience in Mexico was remarkable. We saw some men crying of joy, we generated 87 million media impressions and, mostly, we built a bridge between our country and theirs.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

“Sadly, we have less football players than we did a decade ago. We went from 180,000 players to 100,000 players. As a matter of fact, participation in sports is declining in general. Kids have strong thumbs now! As part of our CBA negotiations, we asked current players to help us take on the challenge. We asked them: How can we make our local product grow through internationalization? The idea is not only to gain better international players, but also to offer different avenues to the talent we have here. The ratio could potentially change. For now, we shared our vision with the players and requested that they think of solutions to accommodate international players. What I do know is that the international alliances we put in place generate revenues, from broadcast agreements for example, that can be redistributed to support amateur football programs.” – Randy Ambrosie, commissioner

“A CFL/NFL all-star game is not in the plans. However, we could eventually consider a matchup between the Grey Cup-winning team and a European all-star team. It would allow us to bring the best players of that continent into our fast 3-down football.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

Randy Ambrosie
 

DEVELOPING LOCAL TALENT

“I agree that there should be more Canadian coaches. One of the reasons why we’re trying to work more closely with universities is just that: developing more coaches. Our USports coaches have international experience and connections all over the world. They have been one of the most helpful groups in developing our internationalization strategy.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

“We want USports to rejoin the family. We’re looking into the possibility of the Vanier Cup and the Grey Cup being held together again. We’re also thinking of potentially organizing a Pro Bowl in December with a group of USports all-stars playing against Mexican college all-stars. When the Canadian U19 team played the national Mexican team, no fewer than 33,000 fans were chanting in the stands.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

“We know it can be hard for Canadian QBs to make it in the league. Our alliances with European countries could allow us to send them some of our QBs after their varsity career. It’s all part of an overarching strategy to give our kids more opportunities to play and to better prepare for the CFL.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner


 

PLAYER SAFETY

“I feel confident that our game is getting safer. We have to think about being stricter and more disciplined about taking nasty hits out of the game. Issuing fines and suspensions is what I like the least about my job, but if it relates to safety, I don’t hesitate to do it. However, I think we need to share more positive stories about the game. Many guys will tell you that it changed their life for the better. Last week, I spoke to a young lady whose son suffers from depression. She told me since he started playing football, her son taught himself confidence. He feels welcomed in the locker room.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

“We’ve come a long way since the time Randy and I played. Now,  teams can only use pads for a certain amount of time in practice and at training camp. I believe players have to take ownership of safety, they have to respect each other. It can be tough because it’s football, and football is a tough sport, but we have to stir away from the old we play to hurt mentality and move on.” – Pierre Vercheval, Alouettes alum

THE JOHNNY MANZIEL AFFAIR

“I have one word to say and it’s disappointed. When he came to us, we knew about his particular history. We looked into it and asked experts what they thought we could do to create the proper environment for him to be successful on and off the field. We wanted to set him up for long-term success. A few weeks ago, I learned that he had violated one of the conditions listed on his contract. Again, we spoke to experts who told us that, once he strayed from that path, there was no saying what else he could do.” – Randy Ambrosie, commissioner

“I know some think it’s a conspiracy or that he manufactured the outcome. Let’s be serious here… He didn’t have the best playing performance last season, his rule violation could spin his life out of control and he would get hired in the US? Not the greatest strategy…” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

THE ATLANTIC TEAM

“We’re making progress! Maritime Football is in conversations with a couple of cities to be the host of the Touchdown Atlantic game and we expect a final answer in the next few weeks. I’ll be in Halifax at the end of the month, so I suspect that they will make the announcement then.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner


 

On the impact of the AAF and the XFL:

“Our league has seen many leagues comes and go south of the border. So, while we have to keep on eye on any challenges these new leagues may present, we shouldn’t overreact or underestimate how strong the CFL really is. I do think it reinforces our view that we should expand our talent base, and we should look not just to Canada and the U.S. but all around the world for great players. As a matter of fact, we’ll have 18 players from overseas at our national combine next week.” – Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner

Let’s keep in mind that the AAF positions itself as a development league for the NFL… The CFL may feel the repercussions of its arrival in the next three years, but once the initial three-year contracts come to and end, players who didn’t make it to the NFL will likely go on a job hunt. At the end of each cycle, a batch of players could end up North of the border. More leagues means more high-level players and more opportunities to evaluate them like we did with the AFL. Who knows!? We could see a whole new generation of Billy Parkers, Mark Estelles and Jerald Browns!

Challenges will never stop coming, but the league is adjusting and progressing at a faster pace than ever to mount them. We still have many more exciting seasons ahead of us!