CFL Hoping Partnership With Mexican League Will Expand Reach
The CFL and Mexico's Liga de Futbol Americano Professional are "officially partners" after CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and LFA officials Oscar Perez and Alejandro Jaimes "signed a letter of intent Friday to work together on several projects," according to Dan Ralph of the CP. There had been "talk of a CFL regular-season game being played in Mexico City as early as next year." But a league official said that due to logistics, a "more likely scenario is for that to happen" in '20. The letter of intent was officially signed "following Ambrosie's annual state of the union address" (CP, 11/23). POSTMEDIA NEWS' Dan Barnes reported pending the signing of a new CBA between the CFL and the CFL Players Association, "at least one and as many as two Mexican players will suit up for each of the nine CFL teams next year." The potential regular-season game in Mexico in '20 will "most likely involve teams representing the CFL's so-called 'international cities' of Montreal and Toronto." Jaimes said that the Mexican government will "help defray some operational expenses." Barnes noted what will "most definitely happen right away is a scouting combine in Mexico City." In January, about 40 or 50 Mexican players will "run through traditional combine drills in front of 18 CFL scouts ... and 10 CFL head office officials." The goal is to "identify players who will be signed as free agents by CFL teams and will attend training camps after the LFA season wraps in early May" (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 11/23).
QUESTIONS BEING ASKED: In Edmonton, Terry Jones wrote although last night's Grey Cup game was broadcast in Spanish on Mexican TV, the CFL-LFA partnership is "all pretty vague stuff and didn't seem to move the dial with anybody." It is "hard to get excited about a few Mexican kickers and a place for Canadian college grads to play and possibly develop when the three biggest markets in the CFL -- Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal -- all have major attendance issues" (EDMONTON SUN, 11/24). In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote under the header, "CFL's Deal With Mexican League Smacks Of Desperation." Willes: "Maybe this can work. In his short time on the job, we've seen Ambrosie doesn't discourage easily." Mexico also "offers a market of 120 million and the game has a following there." Maybe it "won't be a home run for the CFL but a standup double would be helpful." There is a sense, after all, that the league has "maxed out its revenue streams in Canada, that any future growth in our country would be incremental at best." But Mexico "can't be seen as a magic bullet" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/25).
LONG OVERDUE: SPORTSNET.ca's Eric Francis noted the CFL is "finally promising to move its schedule up a week" in an "effort to attract more spectators and enjoy better weather for more of the season." Ambrosie said the league already has an "agreement to move the Grey Cup game in 2020 up one week earlier." Francis noted the move has been "afoot for a while to make the CFL playoffs more palatable for those hoping to attend games, especially in the west." Next year's schedule, which will culminate with the championship game in Calgary, will be "unaffected by the schedule change" (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/23).
PIVOTAL MOMENT: TSN.ca's Dave Naylor wrote the past 10-15 years "represent a period of relative stability" for the CFL, but that "relative calm is about to give way to a wave of challenges and opportunities that will test the league's leadership and have a significant impact on its future." Ambrosie has been on the job for 16 months and is "popular with the fans and the media and apparently well-supported by his board of governors." But he will "need that kind of backing in order to steer the league through some considerable obstacles and capitalize on potential opportunities." One "opportunity for the league" is expansion into Halifax (TSN.ca, 11/23).