O’Leary: Globalizing CFL game at centre of Ambrosie’s annual address

SENIOR WRITER, @OLEARYCHRIS

On Friday afternoon, Ambrosie will show how much things can change in just a year. The commissioner of the CFL will share a stage with representatives of 11 other football leagues from around the world, to officially form the International Alliance of Gridiron Football.

This year, Mexico (and Canada, of course) will be joined by Japan, Great Britain, Austria, Germany, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Italy.

There has been much talk about CFL 2.0 over the last year, about Ambrosie’s ambitious plans to take the CFL to world and to recruit the best football players into the Canadian game. Friday will mark a rare opportunity for fans and media in Canada to see what this will look like.

CFL 2.0 was the commissioner’s biggest focus on Friday morning, when he met with the national media for his annual State Of The League address.

“We are no longer the much smaller of two (leagues),” Ambrosie said in his opening remarks. “We’re the second-biggest of many. Get used to that idea.

“We’re about global partners. We’re about global players who can stand…shoulder to shoulder with their Canadian teammates and their American teammates to take this game to new levels of success.”

Ambrosie mentioned the other side of CFL 2.0, which gives Canadian players the chance to pursue football opportunities abroad. Twenty-five Canadians were recently drafted into the LFA and will have the opportunity to play in Mexico in 2020.

“That’s about growing our game and giving Canadian football players more opportunities,” Ambrosie said.

“Playing football and being a Canadian football player cannot just be about playing in the CFL. It has to be about more than that. I think we should all collectively all set our sights on being able to tell the stories of the 25 and then the 50, the 75 and 100 (playing abroad) and so on.

“Canadian players that are living out their football dream in other parts of the world and perhaps taking a little bit of Canada with them along the way. (They’re) being ambassadors for our game and ambassadors for our country and I can get really excited about that.”

Ambrosie looks at the legwork done on CFL 2.0 this past year, all of the partnerships formed and the sees the talent pool (a talent ocean, maybe?) opening up. He calls the CFL the world’s largest global football league.

“We had nine players on our active roster this year and two practice roster spots, that’s 27 (across the league),” he said.

“This coming year, we’ll have two global spots with three practice roster spots that’s 45. The biggest global football league in the world. We have to start thinking like that. We have to start acting like that It is time for some good, old-fashioned CFL swagger to acknowledge and recognize our place in this sports landscape and be proud of it.”

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