Rider nation had the chance to hear straight from the CFL Commissioner, Randy Ambrosie on Thursday night as Ambrosie stopped in Regina as apart of Randy’s Road Trip, the league wide tour where the commissioner interacts personally with the fanbases of the nine CFL franchises.
Before taking questions from the audience, Ambrosie gave a 30 minute presentation recapping the hardships the league has to overcome over the last couple of years and the future that lies ahead for the league.
The CFL commissioner began his speech discussing the gratitude the league has for the support they received during the pandemic. Ambrosie pointed out the efforts of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and President & CEO Craig Reynolds, and said the Riders were remarkable partners for the league during the hard times of the pandemic.
Ambrosie also thanked the health care workers for their efforts and he also saluted the fans of the league for their patience after having to endure a cancelled season in 2020.
The topic shifted to the business side of the ball as Ambrosie discussed the possibilities the league envisions itself with their new partnership with Genius Sports, a sports data and technology company. The partnership according to Ambrosie will be very beneficial for the league on multiple levels.
With Genius Sports, Ambrosie says fans would soon have access to unique stats including measuring the speed of the players on the field.
Legalized sports gambling is a venture the CFL is willing to explore. The commissioner said his preference is to have a 1,000 fans making $10 bets instead of one fan making a $10,000 bet. Ambrosie noted sports gambling ignites interest in professional sports and he expects that would help increase television ratings for the league if fans develop an interest in gambling on the games.
With labour negotiations set to get underway with the players before training camp, Ambrosie said the league is hopeful for positive talks with the players union. He noted it is important to rebuild their relationship with the players and both sides must communicate through open dialogue.
The fans opinions are a key concern for the commissioner. Ambrosie discussed the results of a fan survey and said one of the things fans want to see, is more continuity with CFL rosters. He pointed out that this is something the league wants to see happen in the future. He also added fans want more action, higher scores and less two and outs during the game. To conclude his presentation, Ambrosie says it’s vital for the league to find the next generation of fans for the league to survive and prosper.
Following his presentation, Ambrosie took questions from the audience. One of the first questions was the possibility of expansion for the CFL. The commissioner says expansion is a necessity for the CFL and the league needs to have a even 10 team league because opens up many possibilities including ending the season a couple of weeks earlier in November since teams wouldn’t have to take three bye weeks during the regular season. Halifax and the Maritimes is an area the league is exploring about possibly expanding in the near future.
A couple questions from the fans asked Ambrosie about his plans for building up the grassroots level of the game. The commissioner pointed out the success of Sask. Minor Football team and players and is hopeful the rest of the country will soon adapt Saskatchewan’s success of producing quality players and developing a strong interest in the game at an early level.
The commissioner was not the only who took questions as Riders Head Coach Craig Dickenson answered an inquiry about any possible future additions with the Riders. Dickenson pointed out the best players in the league usually don’t make it to free agency, but pointed out the Riders were able to sign Wide Receiver Duke Williams to a new deal.
The event ended with an announcement from the league as the CFL confirmed the Saskatchewan Roughriders matchup against the Toronto Argonauts will be played in a neutral site game as apart of Touchdown Atlantic on July 16. Ambrosie says more details about the game will be released in the near future.
Thursday marked a busy day for Ambrosie was in Regina earlier in the day taking part in the launch of the countdown to the Grey Cup Festival in Regina that begins on Tuesday, November 15.