CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie looking to take league to Europe

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie may have already taken the league to Mexico but he isn’t stopping there.

Ambrosie will be meeting football officials from Germany later this month in Toronto to discuss the possibility of Canadian and German players suiting up in the respective circuits. Early next month, he will then fly overseas to hold discussions with the French and Austrian federations as well as heads of the leagues in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark in his quest to grow Canadian football globally.

Part of the initiative included presentations by American Football International at the CFL winter meetings where AFI described the growth of football throughout the world for league presidents, general managers and head coaches.

Ambrosie is enthusiastic:

“I’m bound and determined to build an opportunity to create ways for more of our players to play the game. I think it’s going to be more interesting for a high school football athlete to pursue the next level of football if there’s more beyond that level than just a shot at the CFL.

“I want to create excitement amongst our college, junior and high school kids. Far too many of our college and junior guys when they finish their college or junior eligibility and if they don’t make it in the CFL, that’s it and I think that’s a tragedy for so many guys who love the game.”

Last Sunday, the CFL held a combine in Mexico City for 50 players from the Liga de Futbol Americano (LFA) and college programs. The following day, 27 players were selected in the first-ever LFA/CFL draft.

In November, Ambrosie and the LFA signed a letter of intent to work together on several projects, including the staging of a future CFL game in Mexico City. Last week, the CFL was criticized by some media outlets for spending money on staging the combine and drafting Mexican players, but Ambrosie said the LFA covered the vast majority of those expenses.

Ambrose added the league paid only for the airfare of its staff and CFL team officials.

“If we could replicate that model all around the world, we’d be exceptionally happy.”

The letter of intent also calls for Canadians to play in the LFA.

“I met Tuesday with (LFA president) Oscar Perez and the commissioner of the LFA (Alejandro Jaimes) about that issue,” Ambrosie said. “I’ve now tasked (CFL counsel) Stephen Shamie to put an actual program in place.

“They (LFA) have made a commitment to roster spots on their teams. I think for 2020 we’re going to see Canadian players given an opportunity to continue their passion for the game and develop their skills.”

As AFI pointed out in their presentations, North American football is popular in Germany, with 54,000 people playing the game and in fact almost 100,000 in Europe.

Ambrosie said the hope is for the CFL to stage a European scouting combine before the start of the 2019 season.

“We talked about this (earlier this month) at the league meetings in Mont-Tremblant,” Ambrosie said. “I asked our coaches and GMs to put their thinking caps on about how do we do this efficiently.

“I’m really looking forward to now working with our football guys on figuring out how do we do this and how do we go find some really talented players and create some global excitement around the CFL.”

Canadian Press 

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.