League chooses one of its Cana­dian alumni, Randy Am­brosie, to tackle the role of com­mis­sioner

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - GRE­GORY STRONG

TORONTO — Randy Am­brosie ticks a lot of boxes as the in­com­ing com­mis­sioner of the Cana­dian Foot­ball League.

He’s a Cana­dian who un­der­stands the nu­ances of the CFL. He’s a for­mer player and a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man.

But Am­brosie is not a ma­gi­cian armed with a quick-fix cure for the league’s big­gest prob­lem at the mo­ment: re­viv­ing a sag­ging fan base in Toronto. He thinks a “brick by brick” ap­proach to im­prov­ing the state of the Toronto Arg­onauts is the way to go.

“It’s just com­pet­i­tive, I think that’s the big­gest is­sue,” Am­brosie said.

“It’s just a very crowded space. You’ve got a very suc­cess­ful hockey fran­chise, a very suc­cess­ful bas­ket­ball fran­chise, a very suc­cess­ful base­ball fran­chise. It’s crowded here. But it’s also the big­gest mar­ket in the coun­try with the mil­lions of peo­ple that live around Lake On­tario.

“There’s room for those three fran­chises and there is room for a fan­tas­ti­cally suc­cess­ful Cana­dian Foot­ball League fran­chise here in Toronto as well.”

Many feel the Arg­onauts are a corner­stone fran­chise for the league, but their at­ten­dance woes have be­come chronic.

Last year’s move from the cav­ernous Rogers Cen­tre to the more com­fort­able Bank of Mon­treal Field did not fix the prob­lem. Toronto is av­er­ag­ing 12,401 fans a game so far this sea­son, down from an unim­pres­sive 16,168 last sea­son.

Am­brosie, a for­mer No. 2 over­all draft pick and a Uni­ver­sity of Man­i­toba prod­uct, also wants to help build the game by telling the play­ers’ sto­ries.

“I want to per­son­ally take that chal­lenge of telling those sto­ries to

Cana­dian fans — young and old — about just how re­mark­able th­ese men are that play in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League,” he said.

“Inch by inch, mile by mile, I think we’ll win the bat­tle for their hearts and minds be­cause the game is too great to ig­nore.”

Am­brosie said the Arg­onauts have a strong own­er­ship group (Larry Ta­nen­baum and Bell Canada) that is com­mit­ted to the fu­ture, and will take a steady ap­proach to get there. “The car­pen­ter’s ax­iom of mea­sur­ing twice and cut­ting once,” he said Wed­nes­day af­ter his for­mal in­tro­duc­tion.

The 54-year-old Win­nipeg na­tive was a fi­nal­ist for the com­mis­sioner po­si­tion in 2015 but the job in­stead went to Jef­frey Or­ridge, who stepped down last month. Board chair Jim Law­son had been serv­ing as in­terim com­mis­sioner since Or­ridge’s de­par­ture.

Am­brosie, who be­comes the 14th com­mis­sioner in league his­tory, plans to take a team-by-team ap­proach to iden­ti­fy­ing prob­lems the league can help solve.

In ad­di­tion to the Arg­onauts’ sit­u­a­tion, player safety and the Calgary Stam­ped­ers’ ag­ing sta­dium are other items on his agenda. And his busi­ness acu­men will be needed to try to fig­ure out how best to tap into a younger gen­er­a­tion with more sport­ing op­tions than ever be­fore.

First up, Am­brosie plans to meet with the teams and then build a strat­egy. “A lot of lis­ten­ing, I re­ally am pas­sion­ate about that. That’s been my op­er­at­ing model in the cor­po­rate world. Start with ques­tions, build a depth of knowl­edge.”

FRANK GUNN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Randy Am­brosie will serve as the CFL’s 14th com­mis­sioner.

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