Posts Tagged ‘Randy Ambrosie’

The Edmonton Eskimos have no immediate plans to change their name.

The CFL franchise has spent the past couple of years speaking with Inuit leaders and conducting research on the impact of the Eskimos name on the Inuit community. And the club plans to do much more before being in a position to determine the final results of its efforts.

Despite a social media report Monday suggesting Edmonton would be changing its name to Empire, Allan Watt, a marketing and communications official with the Eskimos, said there’s nothing imminent regarding a new team monicker.

“We’ve been doing many phases of research and been up north and done extensive research there,” Watt said. “It was not about changing our name.

“It was asking (Inuit leaders) about how they feel about our name. And there’s a big difference between the two.”

On Friday, McGill University announced it was changing the name of its men’s varsity sports teams, who were called the Redmen. Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s principal and vice-chancellor said the name made Indigenous students feel alienated.

Watt said the Edmonton club purposefully hired and international research company to help them gather information on the potential impact of the Eskimos’ name on the Inuit community.

“When we embarked on this process, one of the things we wanted to do was make sure that we were getting answers from people without us in the room,” he said. “There’s only one way to do that and that’s get somebody else asking.

“This is something that’s been our name since 1910 . . . and we want to make the right decisions, not quick decisions. We’d be remiss if we didn’t do extensive research, if we didn’t do it thoroughly and if we didn’t do it in the north. . . . none of us should pretend to speak for people who are Inuit.”

Watt said there’s no timetable regarding when the research results will be compiled. Until that’s done, it’s unfair to speculate whether the CFL club will or won’t change its name.

“We don’t have the research results so there’s no point,” he said. “We’re not researching a name change, we’re researching how people feel about our name.”

The Eskimos name is near and dear to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s heart. The veteran offensive lineman finished his career in Edmonton (1989-93), winning a Grey Cup with the franchise in his final season before retiring.

Shortly after becoming commissioner, Ambrosie commended the Eskimos for the process they were taking regarding their team name. But he also admitted a name change would be difficult to imagine, given all the memories he has as a former Eskimos player.

“When you’ve got jerseys tucked away that you’ll want pass on to your kids and maybe grandkids one day because you’re so proud of it . . . the idea of that name going away is hard to fathom,” Ambrosie told The Canadian Press. “But I also know times change and so we have the conversation and we see where it takes us.”

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Every game from the Canadian Football League (CFL) will be available live to fans in the United States through a new multi-year agreement with ESPN and ESPN+ the league announced on Monday.

“It’s exciting for the CFL to continue its relationship with ESPN and expand onto ESPN+,” said CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie. “We have seen increases in interest in the U.S. market for Canadian football and we look forward to building on the momentum and captivating American audiences for seasons to come.”

A minimum of 20 games, including one Division Final and the Grey Cup, will be televised live on ESPN networks, with more than 65 regular season games available exclusively on ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International segment and ESPN.

“ESPN+ is an exciting new platform that is letting us directly serve fans in new ways, and we’re excited that it will help us expand the way we cover the CFL,” said Burke Magnus, executive vice president, programming, ESPN. “We have a great, long-standing relationship with the CFL and look forward to bringing their dynamic league to the growing number of CFL fans in the US for years to come.”

The 2019 CFL season will open in June and continue for over five months, with the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw capping the season on Sunday, November 24 in Calgary.

ESPN began televising CFL games in 1980, and its coverage in 2018 on ESPN2 averaged 163,000 viewers, up 19% vs. 2017.

In the UK and Ireland, BT Sport will feature coverage of up to 85 CFL games per season, as a part of its long-term collaboration with ESPN.

In Canada, TSN is the exclusive English language broadcaster for the CFL and Grey Cup, and RDS is the exclusive French language broadcaster.

CFL teams are scheduled to open their training camps for the 2019 season on Sunday, May 19. The season begins on Thursday June 13 when the Saskatchewan Roughriders face off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Edmonton will host Montreal on Friday June 14 and the Calgary Stampeders will launch the defense of their championship on Saturday June 15 when they host the Ottawa REDBLACKS. Opening week wraps up with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers travelling to BC to play the Lions.

For the entire 2019 CFL schedule, click here.

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Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s vision for the future of the Canadian Football League is clear.

He wants to make the league international. He wants players from around the globe in CFL uniforms. He wants to sell broadcast rights back to their home countries. He wants Canadian players to participate in overseas leagues for development that might one day lead them back to the CFL.

Yes, all signs point to a very different vision for the future of the CFL, even if not everyone understands exactly how this is going to happen. There remain skeptics, especially among some franchises’ football personnel.

That’s understandable given that coaches and general managers are concerned about winning this coming season, not about some outside-the-box vision to drive the league’s future revenues.

Team owners and presidents were briefed on the international strategy this fall, but for the most part the football personnel remained focused on the 2018 season and largely in the dark about exactly what the league is up to.

That’s why one of the goals of this week’s league meetings in Mont-Tremblant, Que., was to bring the league’s coaches and general managers up to speed on where the league is heading.

That included a presentation on the state of international football, which detailed the extent of growth of the game globally, including where the best players beyond Canada and the U.S. are coming from – places like Brazil, Germany, Japan and Mexico.

CFL teams will begin putting their toes into international waters this weekend with a CFL combine in Mexico City, followed by a draft of players’ rights.

However, the fact that a good number of the league’s general managers and head coaches are taking a pass on this weekend’s venture shows there is still lukewarm enthusiasm for what this all means in the short term, especially since so many questions remain about how this will all be put together.

For instance, it’s unclear exactly how international players will become part of a CFL roster, rosters which right now are constructed of 21 Canadian players, 20 Americans and three quarterbacks (with no designation).

No one is ready to address that question, since anything to do with the ratio falls under collective bargaining with the players’ association, which is expected to begin in February.

But if international players are going to be a significant part of the future of the CFL, then presumably we’re talking about more than just a player or two on a practice roster.

That would likely mean adding roster spots to every team since it is unlikely the players’ association would come on board with a plan that means fewer jobs for Canadians.

But Mexico is just the start.

Later this winter, Ambrosie will host German football officials. The commissioner is also planning a European trip that will include visits to France, Italy and Scandinavia.

Why is all this happening? Well, the driving force behind it all is the same impetus that sent the league down the course of U.S. expansion more than a quarter century ago.

Back then, the CFL’s revenues were flat and there seemed to be limited prospects from revenue sources within Canada to increase them. So the league went in pursuit of American dollars, hoping that establishing a presence with U.S. expansion teams would lead to the pot of gold from U.S. television. Unfortunately, that experiment collapsed before that idea could be realized, although expansion fees did provide the league with a desperately needed short-term cash infusion.

Things aren’t so desperate these days. But there remains the challenge of where the next wave of new dollars will come from.

That’s where Ambrosie’s international strategy comes into play, an idea just as ambitious as U.S. expansion was but substantially less risky, it appears.

Could the CFL turn itself into a league with multiple international broadcast contracts around the world, where fans in other countries follow their countrymen playing the three-down game?

Could the league open itself up to international sponsors and investment?

It all sounds very ambitious and perhaps far-fetched to those who’ve seen the league stub its toe on far less ambitious endeavours.

But this is the path Ambrosie is taking the league down. It’s happening as we speak – even if others can’t see the end result as clearly as he can.

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CFL scouts will have a chance to evaluate and recruit Mexican football players next month.

The CFL announced Thursday that Mexico’s Liga de Futbol Americano Professional (LFA) will host a combine Jan. 13 for leading pros and university seniors who hope to play in Canada. A draft will follow the next day.

The 45-player combine will take place at Estadio Azul, a 33,000-seat stadium in Mexico City.

The combine will feature several drills as well as interviews with representatives of CFL teams.

The CFL and LFA signed a letter of intent last month at the Grey Cup in Edmonton that will see them work together on several projects, including possible CFL games in Mexico.

“This is an exciting step forward for our partnership with the LFA,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement.

“Over time, we want to expand the CFL’s international footprint, and grow the game of football everywhere, by giving the world’s top players access to our league and providing more young Canadians an opportunity to play and develop in other countries before possibly returning to play in the CFL.”

The optimism surrounding yet another attempt at CFL expansion to Atlantic Canada has been extremely cautious. Besides, many have said they’ve been here before only to have the conversation fall flat.

But since Anthony Leblanc and his business team, Maritime Football, made serious their intention to bring a team to Nova Scotia during Grey Cup week last November, it’s felt different.

Even CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has fanned the football expansion flames, saying “it’s the unfulfilled part of our national dream to have the Maritimes have a football team,” and that it would be a “defining moment” to have a team in the Maritimes.

They’ve all been saying the right things.

Now though, the dream of having a 10th CFL team has reached a pivotal point in the process, one Leblanc says will determine whether or not this will actually happen.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council approved a motion to begin discussions with Leblanc’s group and the province about the viability of a team and a stadium.

“I think everybody should continue to have the optimism we’ve had all along,” Leblanc told CBC Sports ahead of the vote. “We wouldn’t be getting into a phase of public discussion if we felt we didn’t have good chances of making this happen.”

Leblanc said his team has had a number of conversations with elected officials over the last number of weeks and believes there’s enough support to continue this venture and feels comfortable they’ll be able to move forward.

He said his hope is that administration moves quickly while looking over their proposal to bring a team to Halifax.

“People will say you can’t put deadlines on this, but candidly, we can because we’re the group that’s planning to do this and if we don’t feel we’re moving the ball down the field, we need to look at what our next steps are.”

The deadline Leblanc has suggested is four to six weeks — they want this done by Labour Day. The reason? If they’re able to move forward with the project ahead of Labour Day, they want to start a season-ticket drive for football fans in the region to support a team.

It would be right around this same time — if everything goes as planned — that Leblanc also hopes to have the CFL award Maritime Football a conditional franchise.

But what about the stadium?

Leblanc knows building a stadium and its location are the most important parts of this expansion puzzle. Last week it was reported Maritime Football had narrowed the choice down to two spots. However, that’s since changed.

“That’s speculation,” Leblanc said. “We haven’t publicly confirmed which sites we’re looking at.”

Those two reported sites were Dartmouth Crossing and a property behind the Kent store in Bayers Lake business park. Leblanc says they’ve brought in a new group to help them look more closely at a number of different spots that would be best suited for a multi-purpose development.

“They’ve been working with us for the last several months and I think it’s fair to say we’re somewhat back to the drawing board because they want to understand all the sites.”

Leblanc said they’ve looked at seven locations a stadium could be built.

“What we’re doing over the next two weeks is reaffirming the sites we’ve narrowed down are the right sites. We’re being incredibly thoughtful on this.”

He added the only way they’ll be able to make a stadium situation work is that if it includes the multi-purpose model.

Premier says taxpayers won’t pay for stadium

Last week Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil made it clear taxpayers won’t be on the hook for a CFL stadium in Halifax.

“General revenue is not part of our conversation. I’m not reaching into general revenue to build a football stadium,” he told CBC News.

McNeil said he will wait for the formal ask to discuss how the government might contribute to the stadium, but was clear it wouldn’t come from general revenue.

“If you have another option, you have a new idea of how I can help, feel free to come and ask,” he said. “But don’t come in and expect I’m going to write you a cheque.”

Leblanc says that was never their expectation and interprets the premier’s message this way.

“What he means by that, from what we’ve been told, is they don’t want to see provincial dollars that have already been designated being utilized. We’ve never contemplated that,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc feels new money can be generated from the project and can be put toward building a new stadium.

“We understand as the private sector we have to participate this in a very healthy manner,” Leblanc said.

 

The CFL announced Thursday that commissioner Randy Ambrosie is ready to approve a contract between former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats:

Since last summer, the Canadian Football League has been engaged in a thorough process to determine the eligibility of Johnny Manziel. This process has been conducted with the cooperation of Mr. Manziel and independent of the team which currently holds his CFL rights, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

It has included an ongoing assessment by an independent expert on the issue of violence against women, a review by legal counsel, and an in-person interview of Mr. Manziel conducted by the Commissioner. As well, Mr. Manziel has been required to meet a number of conditions set by the league.

As a result of this process, the Commissioner has now informed Mr. Manziel and the Tiger-Cats he is prepared to approve a contract for Mr. Manziel, should one be negotiated.

The process that led to this decision, however, will continue. Mr. Manziel has been informed he must continue to meet a number of conditions in order to remain eligible. These conditions, while extensive and exacting, remain confidential.

The Tiger-Cats hold Manziel’s exclusive negotiating rights, and gave the maligned former 22nd overall pick a workout last September. They’ll still need to negotiate a contract with the 25-year-old, but a roster spot is set to open up with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli looking to hit free agency.

Hamilton will have 10 days to either make Manziel a formal contract offer or trade his rights to another team. Should it fail to do either by Jan. 7, 2018, he’ll become a free agent, according to TSN’s David Naylor.

A group of businessmen with ties to Eastern Canada would like to make the Canadian Football League’s dream of a tenth franchise come true in Halifax.

The group made a presentation to the league’s board of governors several weeks ago in Toronto. Meetings have since taken place with various levels of government in Nova Scotia, including an in-camera session with Halifax city council this week that was attended by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

“We have had discussions with the CFL’s board of governors and ongoing discussions with commissioner Ambrosie,” said Anthony LeBlanc, a partner in the group and former president and CEO of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

“The conversations have all been very productive. Chief among all we have discussed, we have a clear understanding of the CFL’s requirements for an expansion franchise, and this clarity is allowing us to move our project forward in a thoughtful way.”

Along with LeBlanc, whose family is from New Brunswick and who began his business career in the province, the group includes Bruce Bowser, a Halifax native who is currently president of AMJ Campbell Van Lines, and Gary Drummond, a businessman from Regina who was president of hockey operations for the Coyotes.

A league spokesman confirmed it had received an expression of interest for a Halifax franchise but said that a process and timetable for awarding a team has yet to be established.

One CFL source described the group’s presentation as “very credible.”

The Halifax group is modelling its plan on that of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which received a conditional franchise from the CFL in 2008 and then redeveloped Frank Clair Stadium and the land surrounding it.

It’s believed the Halifax group would like to have a conditional franchise granted before the start of the 2018 CFL season, with a goal of beginning play as soon as 2020.

The potential owners want to brand the franchise to identity not just with Halifax but all of Atlantic Canada.

Halifax mayor Mike Savage has been on record as saying he would like to see his city host a CFL franchise. Sources say discussions with Savage and members of his council have been very positive over the past few months.

Central to the idea is the construction of a multi-purpose stadium, at one of several locations currently being explored – one of which is the Shannon Park, located next to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge.

Commissioner Ambrosie is expected to update the league’s board of governors on the state of the Halifax proposal when they meet the day before Grey Cup Sunday.

Besides expanding the league’s television footprint into Atlantic Canada, a Halifax-based franchise would allow the league to create two five-team divisions and avoid the number of bye weeks required with a nine-team league.

The CFL awarded a conditional franchise to a Halifax group in 1982 under the name Atlantic Schooners but the financing to build a suitable stadium never materialized.

Dating back to the mid-1980s, the CFL has staged exhibition games in Halifax. In 2010, 2011 and 2013 it played three regular-season games in Moncton, N.B.