Coronavirus: Cancellation of CFL season is “most likely scenario”, says commissioner


Federal politicians mistreated CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie on Thursday during his testimony before a House of Commons finance committee.

Ambrosie spoke via video to a panel on arts, culture, sports and charitable organizations. Her appearance came after news was announced last week that the CFL had requested up to $ 150 million in financial assistance from the federal government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Kenney on the plight of CFL and NHL sports in Alberta this summer

Premier Kenney on the plight of CFL and NHL sports in Alberta this summer

Ambrosie testified that the future of the league was “very at risk”, adding that the CFL teams had collectively lost about $ 20 million last year. He admitted for the first time that the most likely scenario for the CFL is a canceled 2020 season.

“Ours is a great brand but not a rich company,” said Ambrosie. “Unlike the big leagues based in the United States, our main source of income is not television, but ticket sales.

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“The governments facing COVID 19 _ for reasons of public health that we fully support _ have prevented us from doing what we do. Our best scenario for this year is a radically truncated season. And our most likely scenario is the absence of a season. “

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Following Ambrosie’s presentation, MPs Kevin Waugh (Conservative, Saskatoon), Peter Julian (NDP, New Westminster-Burnaby) and Peter Fragiskatos (Liberal, London North Center) took turns to take the Commissioner of the CFL in turn. Sometimes Ambrosia appeared on the defensive.

“Some of your comments have a lot of holes,” said Waugh, a former sports reporter who asked if the CFL was looking for a bailout or a loan.

“What we are looking for is a partnership with the government,” said Ambrosie. “Our fundamental position is that we are looking for financial support that we want to repay to Canadians.

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“If it takes the form of a loan, we may be able to repay part of that loan through programs. . . we are really looking for a business relationship that would benefit Canadians over the long term. “

Waugh also pointed out that the three CFL community franchises – the Edmonton Eskimos, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – all made seven-figure profits in 2018. He added that the remaining six franchises of the league belong to individuals or to companies with deep pockets.

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“The fact is that when faced with an essentially zero-income model, all of our teams, including our community teams, will suffer significant losses that will be difficult to recover,” said Ambrosie. “The real problem is that this crisis will essentially quadruple or more the financial losses that our teams will suffer in a season that could be lost.”

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Julian wondered why the Ambrosia presentation did not include a presence from the CFL Players’ Association.

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“These are world-class athletes, as you said, who are actually the heart and soul of the CFL,” said Julian. “What would they say if they were before the committee?

“And how much of the financial support you are asking for would go directly to CFL players?” “

Postponement of CFL training camps in the middle of COVID-19

Postponement of CFL training camps in the middle of COVID-19

The CFL and its players have resumed the meeting on potential emergency plans for Season 20 after discussions were halted for about two weeks. Ambrosia said Thursday that the two parties were to meet on Friday.

“In terms of the amount that will go to the players, we have to settle this,” said Ambrosie. “We know, for example, that our players and our alumni could be a potential solution to healing Canada.

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“Our approach was that we just wanted the government to know that we need help. The details of how it all comes together have yet to be decided and it has to be with our players and it has to be done with government as partners. “

Julian was not discouraged.

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“Thank you for your response,” he said. “But the reality is, as we know, it is the CFL players who are at the heart of CFL football and I think it is important to hear them as quickly as possible. “

Julian also interviewed Ambrosie about some of the companies and individuals involved in CFL ownership. He added at a time when many Canadians are struggling, why isn’t the richest property in the league “intensifying to support the CFL?”

“All of these groups and people you mentioned have intensified,” said Ambrosie. “The real question for us is how many losses can these owners suffer when they lose around $ 20 million a year in total?

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How CFL players stay in the off-season game

“And there is now, of course, a considerably accelerated level of loss that will come with a truncated season or a lost season. “

Fragiskatos asked Ambrosie why the CFL had approached the government and not the banks for financial assistance.

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“I think the answer is that as a league last year, we lost about $ 20 million,” said Ambrosie. “First of all, some of our teams are community teams who, because of their structure, cannot take traditional trade credit. “

Fragiskatos replied, “If the banks don’t support the CFL, why should the federal government support the CFL?” “

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“It is not a question of whether the banks will support us,” said Ambrosie. “The problem is that you are now losing $ 20 million and almost certainly increasing that loss in the years to come.

“Our challenge is. . . we’re going to see our losses go up because of the inability to play games. And if you add traditional consumer debt to our financial statements, all you’re going to do is inflate our losses, not reduce our losses. “

The CFL has already canceled the start of training camps – due to open this month – and postponed the start of its regular season to early July at the earliest. Ambrosie has acknowledged that further game cancellations may emerge.

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“We currently operate with money (from) our fans and, to a lesser extent, our broadcasters and sponsors, pay us in advance for the games,” said Ambrosie. “The day is fast approaching where we will have to cancel several games and maybe the season.

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“And then our fans and partners will have the right to demand reimbursement. At that point, our financial crisis will become very real and very significant.

“A ban on large gatherings means for us no income, no business. We want to make sure it doesn’t mean CFL either, for the future. “

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Ambrosia has made it clear that times are desperate for the CFL.

“I don’t mind telling you, it’s humiliating but the fact is that we need your support,” he said. “So we can be there for all the community groups that depend on us.

“Whenever this happens, we want our next Gray Cup – Canada’s 108th Cup – to be the place where we can all celebrate that we have gone through this ordeal. And that Canada is back. “

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© 2020 The Canadian Press


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