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

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Trainees part of the Pathways to Prosperity Program at the Vanderhoof Lodge. (Photo submitted by Suzanne Wilton, CGL spokesperson)
Coastal GasLink gets a nod to increase workforce from 963 to 2,787 people

One new COVID case in section 1 of the pipeline identified; no lodge affected

(Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Homeless shelter, brownfields and more discussed during Vanderhoof council meeting

Regular public meeting of council held Feb. 22, with a video of the meeting available Feb. 23.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Vanderhoof RCMP receive 100 files over two-week period

Impersonation, theft, erratic driving amongst some files.

(Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof council discuss hosting virtual community meetings

Due to COVID regulations, council chambers have been closed to the public.

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Average response times for critical “purple” and “red” calls were between nine and 10 minutes Feb. 19 in Metro Vancouver, with only less critical “yellow” calls receiving an average response time of 45 minutes. The longer than usual delay was due to a combination of factors, BC Emergency Health Services said. (APBC image)
After a night of one-hour waits for ambulances, union goes public with concerns

B.C. Ambulance Service says high-priority calls were still 10 minutes or less

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Contributed to Kamloops This Week)
B.C. teen in turtleneck, lace-edged dress sent home from school for ‘inappropriate’ outfit

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson was told the lace on the garment made it look like a slip dress

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Jessica McCallum-Miller receives her signed oath of office from city chief administrative officer Heather Avison on Nov. 5, 2018 after being elected to Terrace City Council. McCallum-Miller resigned on Feb. 22, 2021, saying she felt unsupported and unheard by council. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace’s 1st Indigenous councillor resigns citing ‘systemic and internalized racism,’ sexism

McCallum-Miller said in a Facebook post she felt unheard and unsupported by council

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

Wade Dyck with Luna, a dog who went missing near the Chasm for 17 days following a rollover on Feb. 5. (Photo submitted).
Dog missing for 17 days through cold snap reunited with owner in northern B.C.

Family ecstatic to have the Pyrenees-Shepherd cross back home.

Most Read