American Football International

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie: ‘Most likely scenario no season at all’

OTTAWA — CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the most likely scenario for the league is a cancelled 2020 season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ambrosie made the admission for the first time while testifying to Canada’s House of Commons standing committee on finance Thursday.

“Unlike large US-based leagues, our biggest source of revenue is not TV –it’s ticket sales. Governments coping with COVID 19 — for reasons of public health that we totally support — have made it impossible for us to do what we do.

“Our best-case scenario for this year is a drastically truncated season. And our most likely scenario is no season at all.”

Ambrosie appeared via video during a panel on arts, culture, sports and charitable organizations after news broke last week that the CFL had requested up to $150 million in financial assistance from the federal government.

During his testimony, Ambrosie said the league’s future is “very much in jeopardy.”

“Ours is a big brand but not a wealthy business. Collectively, our teams lose between $10 million and $20 million a season.

“We survive because of the passion of our fans, the dedication of the volunteers who guide our community-held clubs, and the civic philanthropy of the people who own, and subsidize, our privately-held teams.”

Ambrosie acknowledged more cancellations of games could be looming.

“We are currently operating on the money our fans, and to a lesser extent our broadcasters and sponsors, pay us in advance for games. The day is fast approaching when we will have to cancel several games and perhaps the season. And then our fans and partners will have every right to demand their money back. At that moment, our financial crisis will become very real and very big.

“A ban on large gatherings means no revenue, no business, for us. We want to ensure it also does not mean no CFL, for the future.”

Ambrosie made it clear these are desperate times for the CFL.

“I don’t mind telling you, this is humbling but the fact is we need your support. So we can be there for all the community groups that depend on us. So, we can continue to deliver $1.2 billion in economic activity each year. So, the CFL can continue to be one of those things that connects us as Canadians.

“Whenever it comes, we want our next Grey Cup — Canada’s 108th — to be the place where we can all celebrate that we did get through this. And that Canada is back.”