Brian Ramsay and the CFL Players’ Association have run out of patience with commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
Ramsay, the CFLPA’s executive director, and a host of CFL players took to twitter Thursday to voice their displeasure with the state of talks between the league and CFLPA regarding an abbreviated 2020 season owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambrosie has often stated talks between the two sides have been continuing as they work on the details of staging a shortened 2020 campaign. But Ramsay painted an entirely different picture Thursday.
“The CFLPA has not received concrete ideas regarding a 2020 collective agreement from the CFL, as was promised, nor concrete direction about opportunities for a 2020 season,” Ramsay tweeted. “We will continue to talk to our members while we wait for information from the CFL – as we have for the past 10+ weeks.”
At a time when the NBA, MLS and NHL have all announced plans to return, the CFL remains in limbo for 2020. And on Thursday – when the regular season was scheduled to kick off – players and fans alike had no idea about when, or if, football would return in Canada.
“CFL CFLPA Randy Ambosie can we please get a set date on when a decision will be made?” Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. tweeted. “I got kids Mann.”
Added Ottawa Redblacks kicker-punter Richie Leone: “What a freaking joke man. All that brain power at the CFL can’t come up with anything? Genuinely sad and disturbed. Randy Ambrosie c’mon bro call me. Call someone.”
The players’ unhappiness comes more than a month after Ambrosie was criticized by several members of Parliament for not including the players in the league’s request for financial assistance from the federal government.
Ambrosie said Thursday he understands the uneasiness from players.
“To anyone who’s feeling frustrated by the time it’s taking to reach these conclusions, I’d tell you I feel your pain,” Ambrosie said in an interview. “I’d love nothing more than to have all the answers that I need today, and make a decision and proclamation.
“I do believe everyone knows our situation is complicated, I believe everyone wants us to do the right thing. I’m not going to give up on them and I hope they won’t give up on us. I’d rather make the right decision than a quick one.”
Ambrosie announced last month the earliest the league would begin an abbreviated 2020 season would be September. But he also stated a cancelled campaign remains possible owing to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
After Ambrosie’s announcement, Sportsnet reported there wasn’t unanimous support among CFL teams to play a shortened season. It said at least two privately-owned franchises weren’t totally on board with the idea.
When asked Thursday if all nine clubs were eager to play a shortened campaign, Ambrosie answered the question carefully.
“What I’d say is every one of our teams is in their own unique situation,” he said. “One of the jobs that it takes to lead the league is to be able to respect everyone’s circumstances being unique to them and then trying to find a way to bring everyone together.
“The best way to answer the question is to tell you every single member of our board of governors, every single team president is committed to the great future of the CFL. How we get there is harder, but I’m working with some of the most remarkable Canadians you could hope for and I believe in the end we’ll come up with an answer that will make sense for everybody.”
During his testimony last month before a House of Commons committee on finance, Ambrosie said CFL teams collectively lost about $20-million in 2019. Those losses were shouldered by the league’s six privately-owned clubs as the three community-owned franchises have annually posted operating profits.
So the question facing some of the privately-owned clubs is whether they’d lose less being dormant than they would playing a shortened season, with a strong possibility of limited or no fans.
Wade Miller, the president of the reigning Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has said his club could lose up to $10-million if the season is lost.
Ambrosie said he’s no closer to reaching a drop-dead date regarding when the CFL must decide whether or not to have a 2020 season. But he does feel headway is being made toward that end.
“I do feel like we’re making real progress in doing the analysis on what the one or two most likely scenarios are for getting back to play,” he said. “I think, frankly, in order to ultimately decide a drop-dead date you have to know kind of what you’re evaluating against.
“Once we get to the one or two things that we’re absolutely certain are within the realm of possibilities, I think that’s going to take us closer to a decision day and a drop-dead date.”
Ambrosie said the CFL has some time before having to reach a drop-dead date.
“I think you have to use time as a tool and understand time,” he said. “That basically means you have to look at it from a variety of perspectives [and] don’t rush to make a decision before you’re ready to make it.
“That suggests you have to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment, but also recognize we’re not dealing with an infinite amount of time. We’re hearing this from our fans, we’re hearing this from our partners where people are talking about their willingness to accept it’s going to be a different kind of season and we’re trying to use that to our advantage.”
The subject of hub cities has been at the forefront of the CFL discussion for weeks. While Ambrosie said the league has spoken to potential cities, he wouldn’t specifically say which ones and stopped well short of saying hubs present the best options for a 2020 season.
“It’s certainly an option and that’s at the heart of some of the analysis that’s being done,” he said. “It has in some respects the benefit of potentially creating a more controlled environment for our players, coaches, football operations staff and everybody that will have to be part of the game.”
The league’s three-part proposal to the federal government called for $30-million immediately, additional monies for an abbreviated season and up to $120-million more in the event of a cancelled season.
Ambrosie said the CFL continues to examine the various programs established by the federal government.