CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie speaks at a news conference in Halifax on January 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

CFL commissioner Ambrosie says league is committed to returning to play in 2021

League syays it is keeping all options open, looking to other leagues for guidance

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the CFL remains committed to returning in 2021, but is leaving the door wide open regarding exactly how that will look.

The CFL didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans for an abbreviated season were shelved in August after the league failed to secure a $30-million, interest-free loan from the federal government.

The CFL unveiled a full 18-game schedule for all nine teams last November, one that Ambrosie said it remains on track for in 2021. However, the commissioner added the league is keeping all of its options — including teams playing fewer than 18 games — open.

“We’ve got a schedule in place and we’re committed to it,” Ambrosie told The Canadian Press. “Our real focus is on all the planning that’s going to have to go into executing against that and also having maximum adaptability because there’s no doubt we’re going to have to make adjustments to our plan.

RELATED: CFL cancels 2020 season during pandemic, ends 100-plus year run for Grey Cup

RELATED: CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says league exploring all options to hold 2021 season

“We just need to be ready at a moment’s notice to make those adjustments … that’s really how we’re planning our business. We’re committed to being on the field in 2021 … we’re just keeping all of our avenues open.”

The CFL made repeated pitches to Ottawa last year for funding it maintained was essential for an abbreviated season. Ambrosie repeatedly stated the league had collectively lost around $20 million in 2019 and a source familiar with the situation said the CFL lost between $60 and $80 million by not playing in 2020.

The source was granted anonymity because the league has not revealed its financial results for 2020.

The reported losses would suggest the CFL — which is essentially a gate-driven league and generates limited revenues by not playing — could have to approach government again for assistance in order to get back up and running. Ambrosie said while the league has maintained dialogue with the government since August, it’s not basing a return to play solely upon securing financial assistance from Ottawa.

“One of the things we take away from 2020 is we’re trying not to hinge our future on any one issue,” he said. “We’re looking at our solutions holistically, we’re being as creative as we can be on any one of a number of fronts so that we find a way to play.

“We’re certainly, like almost all businesses, wearing the battle scars of what has been a very, very difficult time. That’s why we’ve been focused on looking for as many creative solutions to potential revenue streams and funding solutions … in the end I think it’s going to be a combination of several things that will fall into place and that’s why we’re focusing on creativity and thoroughness.”

But there’s no denying the importance of fans in the stands for CFL teams. So pushing back the start of the season until August or September could allow for more Canadians to receive their COVID-19 vaccination and thus be able to attend games.

“We’re taking a very committed, very pragmatic approach to this,” Ambrosie said. “We’re going to play in 2021, we’re just going to find a way.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of being ready and flexible to so that we play a lot of football this year and ultimately culminate in a great Grey Cup game in Hamilton.”

Another key element of the CFL’s 2020 plan was the adoption of a health-and-safety plan that it ultimately presented to the Public Health Agency of Canada for approval. Ambrosie said those protocols are currently being amended and tweaked for another presentation to Canadian health officials.

“We had a pretty good playbook for health and safety but it’s going to have to be reviewed thoroughly and refreshed,” he said. “There’s no doubt government is going to be involved ultimately in the approval of our return-to-play plan.

“So you try to look at it from every stakeholders’ point of view and make sure when you get to that time of presentation that you have the best possible chance of getting approval.”

The CFL is also watching with interest how the NHL operates this winter. The league is running with four separate divisions, including all seven of its Canadian franchises playing in the North Division and only playing against each other.

Last year, the CFL eyed having all of its nine teams playing in one division in Winnipeg, its proposed hub city. The 2021 schedule is calling for games to be played in all nine stadiums across Canada.

“We’re watching closely (the NHL) for their experience and what they’re learning,” Ambrosie said. “We’ve received tremendous support from all leagues, including the NHL, just to really help us think through the challenges we might face through the lens of what they’re currently facing.”

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association have also resumed meeting on return-to-play matters, although Ambrosie said the two sides have been talking since the fall.

Earlier this month, Greg Quick stepped down as the CFL’s director of global scouting to become a defensive and special-teams assistant with the Montreal Alouettes. The move wasn’t surprising given Quick is a career coach with 40 years of experience in Canada and the NCAA. Ambrosie said Quick’s departure won’t impact the league’s April 15 global draft.

“Greg Quick is a football guy and you have to love that he’s going to be as close to the game as a guy can get without strapping on cleats and a helmet,” Ambrosie said.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“He’ll be bowling for dollars — $30,000 to be exact. Matt Hancock, 15-years-old of Lake Cowichan won in the Coca-Cola B.C. championship finals and will now bowl in the international championship with a chance to win a $30,000 scholarship. Hancock will go to the international competition in Columbus July 10. He is coached by Karen Smith of Cowichan Lake and plays on the T.G.S. bowling team.” (Lake News/May 8, 1996)
Flashback: Taxes, school district amalgamation, logging licences and student news

A look back through the pages of Lake Cowichan’s history

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Give me a brake!

It was clear that none of these drivers had done a pre-trip inspection

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read