Sunday, September 25, 2022

Brighter days ahead for Alouettes and CFLs, says Ambrosi

After a “tough two years” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioner is confident the ALS management team “can work the magic.”

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Although the Alouettes are struggling at the gate – nothing lost on owner Gary Stern – CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosi believes the future of the franchise is stable, with its management team able to reverse the trend.

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“Gary never gave up on our conversations,” Ambrosi told the Montreal Gazette on Monday by telephone from his Burlington, Ont., home, where he tested positive for COVID-19 after Saturday testing despite being fully vaccinated. lives in isolation.

“It was a tough two years … with a lot of uncertainty,” said Ambrosi, who would have met with President Mario Cecchini at the Olympic Stadium on Monday as selected ALS season-ticket holders had not contracted the virus. “I think Gary is the right boss…and has hired a great team around him. Gary wants success. I think he did all the right things to set the stage for that hope to come true.” have done.

“I think they’ve made all the right moves. I think (the family’s) commitment to the Alouettes is very strong. I think the future is bright. Will there be hard work ahead? Absolutely. These changes don’t happen overnight.” But when you have the right people doing the right things, you can make magic happen.”

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Stern, who bought the team in 2020 with his late father-in-law, Sid Spiegel, expressed concern to The Gazette after last season, when Montreal was 7-7 ahead and average attendance was barely above 13,000, a decade was the lowest.

It was an unusual season that did not begin until August, had four fewer games and saw four of Montreal’s final five games at home, when the weather turned cold and wet. Stern made it clear that attendance should improve this season.

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“From small acorns grows a mighty oak tree,” Ambrosi said. “We know Quebec has a great sports culture. They love to see winning teams. I have every reason to be optimistic, Montreal has a bright future.”

In preparation for his five-year anniversary as commissioner in July, Ambrosi and the CFL have never faced a greater challenge. After the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic, league attendance in the previous season was 19,164 – down from 22,916 in 2019 – averaging 43.1 points per game and 31 out of 63 regular-season games decided by more than 11 points was done.

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The CFL will have to enter into a new collective agreement with its players’ union by May 14, a day before the start of training camp. According to TSN, talks began last week, while Ambrosi continued to talk about the “partnership” the league has developed with its players.

“I think the relationship with our players has changed dramatically,” he said. “The tone of our conversation is focused on building partnerships. We have all come together. Perhaps this would be the benefit of the crisis. We are stronger than we are apart.

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“Is everything right? Do we agree on every issue? No. We came through one of the biggest crises in the history of our league. I believe we have set the stage for a better and stronger future.” “

A revenue-sharing plan has been put in place – welcome news for struggling franchises in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, the CFL’s biggest markets – and the league is working with Genius Sports, a United Kingdom-based data, technology and commercial company. Which combines sports, betting. and media. Ambrosi believes the partnership will result in a transformational change in the league’s marketing strategies.

While speculation about a return to a four-down game this winter sparked a firestorm of concern among traditional CFL fans, Ambrosi denied any such move would gain serious traction. However, he said the game should improve. Research has indicated that fans want to see more scoring and better game flow. The CFL is considering moving the hash mark closer to the hash mark to make better use of both sides of the field and possibly moving the kickoff 10 yards back to 25, improving the team’s field position.

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“Our commitment is to have the best, most exciting, fastest, most entertaining football products in the world,” Ambrosi said. “I believe (the management and the players) are committed to doing this through the lens of three-down football. We have everything we need to build our league and advance our game.”

At 59, Ambrosi, a former offensive lineman with Calgary, Toronto and Edmonton, said retirement didn’t come to his mind. And, without a set period tied to his job title, he remains a CFL employee.

“I love the job, the league,” he said. “I believe we have done everything we could over these past two years to set the stage for a better future, and perhaps even more.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HerbZurkowsky1

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