Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 15, 2020
CFL could lose $100 million if season lost
The CFL commissioner says that a repayable loan would be among the possibilities within the league’s request to the federal government for up to $150 million in financial assistance.
“The one point that hasn’t come out so far is that we’ve said to the government we’re prepared to be creative, and consider all options to be on the table, ” Randy Ambrosie told The Spectator on Wednesday morning. “Ultimately, we just want to find a way to get through this crisis together and we’re prepared to talk to the government about anything.”
Tuesday night, Ambrosie told Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press that in the request the league’s accountability to taxpayers would include, “community programs, tourism promotion, the Grey Cup, our digital channels.” But a loan was not specificially mentioned.
Those are positive things the CFL already does and Ambrosie did not mention then the prospect of any kind of loan. But, on Wednesday, he said a loan would be among the things that the CFL would be willing to discuss with the federal government.
The CFL financial proposal to the government is three-tiered: $30 million to manage the impact the pandemic has already had on CFL business; further assistance if there’s a shortened regular season; and up to another $120 million should the league have to collapse its entire season.
Ambrosie reiterated Wednesday that if the CFL cannot play at all in 2020 it might imperil the league’s future because the cumulative loss “could be $100-plus million. Those are actual P &L (profit and loss statement) losses.”
There has been understandable negative reaction to the questionable optics of what appeared to be a straight bailout to a league in which six of the nine teams are privately-owned, including Bob Young’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Ambrosie said he understands that sentiment.
“We are not tone-deaf to the realities of all this but we also know that this crisis will end and Canadians will need to get back to things which bring joy and passion to life,” Ambrosie said. “Sports is part of that and the CFL is a really big part. It’s not appropriate to just hope that this crisis passes: somebody famously said that hope is not a plan.
It has long been the opinion in this space that while the CFL must always operate as a sustainable business and league, it is, and has been first and foremost a cultural institution. The failure to grasp that — at various times in the past even some franchise owners themselves have done that — is to misunderstand its role in this country, and the unifying place of the 111-year-old Grey Cup game, which is much older than the formal league itself.
The CFL seems to welcome a broader discussion on whether it is indeed a necessary cultural institution, differentiated from the NHL, NBA and MLB, leagues with headquarters and most of their teams in the U.S. Ambrosie feels its history, consistent local-employment factor, and the historic durability and surging financial impact of the Grey Cup festival arguably separate it from other domestic leagues as well.
“We are so different than every other sports league on the planet,” Ambrosie told The Spectator. “And what we do in our communities really matters. The tone we’ve set for generations and generations has been so consistent with Canadian values. We are more than a sports league.” (Steve Milton – Hamilton Spectator)