CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie looking to take league across the pond to Europe

He already has taken the CFL into Mexico, but commissioner Randy Ambrosie isn’t stopping there.

The CFL commissioner said Friday he’ll be meeting football officials from Germany later this month to discuss the possibility of Canadian and German players suiting up in the respective circuits. And next month, Ambrosie will fly overseas to talk turkey with French and Austrian federations as well as league personnel in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark in his quest to grow Canadian football globally.

“I’m bound and determined to build an opportunity to create ways for more of our players to play the game,” said Ambrosie, who is in Montreal for the league’s medical meetings. ”I think it’s going to be more interesting for a high school football athlete to pursue the next level of football if there’s more beyond that level than just a shot at the CFL.

“I want to create excitement amongst our college, junior and high school kids. Far too many of our college and junior guys when they finish their college or junior eligibility and if they don’t make it in the CFL, that’s it and I think that’s a tragedy for so many guys who love the game.”

Last Sunday, the CFL held a combine in Mexico City for 50 players from the Liga de Futbol Americano (LFA) and college programs. The following day, 27 players were selected in the first-ever LFA/CFL draft.

In November, Ambrosie and the LFA signed a letter of intent to work together on several projects, including the staging of a future CFL game in Mexico City. Last week, the CFL was criticized by some media outlets for spending money on staging the combine and drafting Mexican players, but Ambrosie said the LFA covered the vast majority of those expenses.

Ambrose added the league paid only for the airfare of its staff and CFL team officials.

“If we could replicate that model all around the world, we’d be exceptionally happy,” he said.

The letter of intent also calls for Canadians to play in the LFA.

“I met Tuesday with (LFA president) Oscar Perez and the commissioner of the LFA (Alejandro Jaimes) about that issue,” Ambrosie said. “I’ve now tasked (CFL counsel) Stephen Shamie to put an actual program in place.

“They (LFA) have made a commitment to roster spots on their teams. I think for 2020 we’re going to see Canadian players given an opportunity to continue their passion for the game and develop their skills.”

Ambrosie said North American football is popular in Germany, adding 60,000 people there play the game. Ambrosie said the hope is for the CFL to stage a European scouting combine before the start of the 2019 season.

“We talked about this (earlier this month) at the league meetings in Mont-Tremblant,” Ambrosie said. “I asked our coaches and GMs to put their thinking caps on about how do we do this efficiently.

“I’m really looking forward to now working with our football guys on figuring out how do we do this and how do we go find some really talented players and create some global excitement around the CFL.”

Ambrosie has been criticized for trying to grow Canadian football at a time when the CFL and its players still haven’t started collective bargaining talks. The present deal is scheduled to expire in May.

Members of the Canadian Football League Players’ Association also are in Montreal, but that doesn’t mean there’ll be an impromptu start to contract talks there.

“The next couple of days will be about being part of the medical meetings and maybe some continued work on just sharing ideas,” Ambrosie said. “What we’re trying to do and I’m sure the players are going to be in a similar frame of mind, we want to have a proper sitdown and talk about where we are, what things we’re looking for and really start the process off on the right foot.”

Meanwhile, Ambrosie said Schooners Sports and Entertainment continues to work on finding a venue for the CFL’s Touchdown Atlantic game between the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes on Aug. 25. A potential site for the game could be Moncton Stadium, which has 10,000 permanent seats but could be expanded to 20,725 via temporary seating.

Schooners Sports and Entertainment is the group working on a stadium project in Halifax for a CFL expansion franchise to play there.

“I hope we’ll have something in the next couple of weeks (for the Aug. 25 game),” Ambrosie said. “They’re looking at a couple of options, for sure, and maybe more than a couple.”

As for the Halifax stadium issue, everyone is playing the waiting game.

“The process is continuing,” Ambrosie said. “They continue to be optimistic that they can get this done and I have no reason to doubt them.

“We’re all trying to be patient because you’d rather get it done right than be fast.”

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