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Ambrosie: CFL season likely to be wiped out, league “in jeopardy”

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Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie has admitted that the “most likely” scenario for the league is to cancel the 2020 season as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Ambrosie made the admission while testifying to a House of Commons standing committee on finance on May 7.

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

“Unlike large US-based leagues, our biggest source of revenue is not TV – it’s ticket sales,” Ambrosie said. “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,” he said.

Ambrosie’s statement came a week after it emerged the CFL had requested up to C$150m in financial assistance from the federal government to cope with the devastating effects of the ongoing health crisis.

“Ours is a big brand but not a wealthy business,” he said. “Collectively, our teams lose between C$10m and C$20m 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.”

The CFL has pushed back the beginning of its regular season to early July but this is likely to be further delayed due to extended shutdown of public events in QuebecCalgary, Toronto and other cities and provinces.

Ambrosie added: “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.”

The coronavirus has had a significant impact in Canada with the Rogers Cup women’s tennis event called off, Formula One’s Canadian Grand Prix postponed and the Canadian Premier League announcing a series of wage cuts and deferrals.

The CPL has also asked the federal government for financial assistance. The start-up league is seeking C$15m in “short-term financing.”