Ambrosie hopeful for European broadcast deals this CFL season

By Dan Barnes, Postmedia

It’s fair to judge the Canadian Football League’s global outreach strategy, CFL 2.0 as it’s known, at least in part on its ability to pad the coffers.

And according to commissioner Randy Ambrosie, the league’s globetrotting point man on the file, the early financial returns will start coming in this season in the form of international broadcast agreements.

“There’s a discussion underway in Mexico right now that’s being collaborated on with our friends at the (Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional). I think it’s not unreasonable to expect we could have a broadcast deal in Mexico for this season,” Ambrosie said last weekend, after returning from meetings in London, Vienna and Helsinki with officials from football federations in four Nordic and three European countries

“Based on the tone of the meetings, and I offer that as a caution, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect we’ll have a broadcast deal or two in Europe this year, at the start of the season,” he added.

“I think in the short term it’s not going to be life-altering money. But anything we get in that arena is going to be incremental, which is of course positive. It’s also going to expose our game to a new population of potential fans and get our league known in other parts of the world. In the short term, whatever money we’re able to secure will be great, but the real opportunity is to get fans outside of Canada and North America watching our game.”

Martin Soderberg of the Swedish American Football Federation, said he has no doubt there will be a broadcast deal in place in his country prior to the 2019 CFL season, but he would not offer details.

“Since there still is not a confirmed agreement it would be questionable of me to discuss such matters,” he said in an email.

More immediately, there will be perhaps a total of a dozen German, French and Nordic players at the CFL player combine in Toronto in late March. If necessary, a draft of global players will also be held. In January, the nine CFL teams drafted 27 Mexican university and professional players in Mexico City, following a player combine there.

The potential for the presence of international players on CFL rosters in 2019 plays into the league’s ability to sign those broadcast and digital streaming deals abroad.

“You get one or two of these young players on a roster and now you can attract a group of fans interested in following one of their countrymen,” said Ambrosie. “The other side of it is we’re also interested in getting Canadians who might not normally be interested in the CFL but might be interested in somebody who shares their ethnic background, to watch them play in our league.”

The CFL 2.0 strategy is bigger than the league itself, and Ambrosie said he is facilitating negotiations between Mexican and Canadian officials on an international clash of university teams.

“Mexico is quite interested in the possibility of some kind of university game, an exchange with Canada involving one of our university teams. It may even be our Vanier Cup champion,” said Ambrosie. “That could be quite a spectacle.”

Sources in Mexico suggest the game could happen as early as December, though they did not specify a location. Nor was it clear whether the Mexican team would be the champions of the public or private university conference.

Ambrosie said he could envision an annual meeting of champs, alternating between Mexican and Canadian sites. He mentioned B.C. Place Stadium as a potential venue. A domed stadium would obviously be necessary if the game were to take place in December, immediately after the Vanier Cup champs are crowned in November.

“This is a conversation that I’m happy to facilitate with (U Sports president) Graham Brown and the university leadership,” said Ambrosie. “I think it would be exciting to see our Vanier Cup champion. There are all kinds of possibilities.”

U Sports officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the likelihood that the Vanier Cup champs would participate in such a game this year.

“Part of this is not just what we want to do to grow the CFL game,” said Ambrosie, “it’s how we lean in and partner with U Sports as well and help to really drive the growth of our university game and junior game because they are a critical part of our long-term success.”

Source: Toronto Sun

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