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

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown to $16 billion and the completion has been moved up a year to 2025. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BC Liberal energy critic blasts ‘lack of transparency’ on Site C

MLA Tom Shypitka says Site C going ahead is a ‘good thing’, blames NDP for mismanagement

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in Cranbrook woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read