Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie will appear via videoconference during a panel on arts, culture, sports and charitable organizations, in a May 7, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie will appear via videoconference during a panel on arts, culture, sports and charitable organizations, in a May 7, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Spring League in U.S. interested in forming partnership with CFL

A best-case scenario for the CFL is opening an abbreviated season in September

An American developmental football league wants to help CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie out.

Brian Woods, the CEO of The Spring League, has approached Ambrosie about a partnership. Woods is offering an opportunity for some CFL teams to practise with and play against Spring League squads in September in a condensed format he says has proven beneficial to his operation.

“I think there could be an interesting opportunity here because it’s not sounding good for the summer or fall season up there,” Woods said. “The Spring League has been here since 2017 and many of our players have made it on to CFL teams and in some instances been very productive.

“It’s absolutely of great importance to us that the CFL stays in operation.”

These are troubled times for the CFL. Ambrosie said Wednesday a best-case scenario for the league is opening an abbreviated season in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But a cancelled 2020 campaign also remains a definite possibility.

Ambrosie has approached the Canadian government for assistance. The league’s three-part proposal includes $30 million immediately, more monies for an abbreviated season and up to an additional $120 million in the event of a cancelled campaign.

The Spring League is a developmental football operation. It consists of four teams — with 38 players on each roster — that practise jointly and play games at one facility.

Its season usually begins in March and generally lasts three weeks. Teams play two games apiece and during the off-season the league conducts tryout camps.

“It’s not many games but it’s enough for players to get current film,” Woods said. ”Most NFL teams, even CFL teams, that’s all they’re looking for, they want to see players in two games to kind of really evaluate them and get a good feel for it.

“We’ve had to find a model that would work financially so we could sustain ourselves. We reached profitability last year and expect to have another profitable year (in 2020).”

Players aren’t paid but are housed in hotels and fed during the season.

“Ultimately they receive an opportunity,” Woods said. “We’ve taken guys who’ve been on NFL practice squads the year before and are coming off injury.

“Getting into The Spring League was important for them to show, ‘Hey I’ve rehabilitated, I’m healthy, I can play and I’m full go.’ It’s been quite valuable to NFL teams, and even CFL teams for that matter.”

Woods said The Spring League has sent over 60 players to the CFL. That includes Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Ottawa Redblacks receiver Jalen Saunders and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

The Spring League held an abbreviated ‘20 season that began with one of its teams playing an exhibition game in Dallas against a Japanese squad. Then all four clubs convened for three weeks in Las Vegas.

Woods’ proposal calls for between two and four CFL teams combining with Spring League squads at an unspecified U.S. location for three-to-four weeks. Woods is amenable to adopting Canadian rules and playing on longer, wider fields like squads in Canada do.

“In 2019, the XFL asked us to test out some rules they were looking at for their 2020 launch,” Woods said. “They paid us a low six-figure deal to work with them but we were willing to test out some rules because we’re a true developmental league.

“We’d be completely amenable to utilize most, if not all, CFL rules and we could absolutely incorporate the CFL guidelines as it relates to the field specifications.”

Ambrosie hasn’t formally spoken to Woods but said they’ve exchanged emails. While the CFL hasn’t closed the door on a 2020 season, Ambrosie is keeping all of his options open.

“I’m trying to keep an open mind to everything,” he said. “The one quality of this job is try to make friends, build relationships and explore all options.

“I think what our governors want me to do is find a bigger, brighter future for this league. That means you’ve got to be open to new thoughts.”

Woods hopes to speak with Ambrosie, “sooner than later.”

“I think this is something that requires some planning even though we’ve got our infrastructure in place,” Woods said. “We’re better equipped to deal with the current health crisis probably more so than the traditional, bigger sports entities in the U.S. because we operate out of one location.

“We’re not in multiple cities, we’re not going to need to bus into different markets, we don’t need air travel. We wouldn’t need much time to get this up and running but certainly for planning purposes and finding an agreeable structure, I think it would be prudent to have conversations as soon as possible.”

Woods said playing games with no fans wouldn’t be an issue, as The Spring League did so in Las Vegas.

Woods said the two entities would operate independently. CFL teams would abide by the league’s CBA, meaning this idea would also require acceptance by the CFL Players’ Association.

“Any sort of operation … would need to take into consideration the current collective bargaining agreement in Canada,” Woods said. “We’d continue to exist as one entity with our teams and they’d continue to exist as another entity but that wouldn’t prevent us from playing one another and having games.”

A source told The Canadian Press a CFL/The Spring League partnership hasn’t been discussed by the league and CFLPA. The source was granted anonymity because the CFL hasn’t commented publicly about the issue.

Like the CFL, The Spring League is looking at international expansion as early as next year.

“We’re hoping to have a team from Japan and maybe a team from either Mexico or Germany take part next year,” Woods said.

Woods believes TSN — the CFL’s broadcast partner — could be part of the project.

“I believe it’s doable and I think there could be a monetary play here with TSN potentially even if it’s a limited number of games,” he said. “And this isn’t foreign because there was a time when CFL teams operated in the U.S.

“I think Canada needs football … I think it’s important the CFL does something this year and is visible to some extent. Otherwise I fear for what could be ahead or what might not be ahead.”

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CFLNFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Adam Louis/Hope Standard
One Week at a Time: My doors will be open

Reporter Adam Louis introduces himself to Hope and the surrounding communities

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near Chilliwack secondary

Third high-school related assault Rob Iezzi’s cameras have captured since beginning of 2021

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Giants defenceman Bowen Byram has recorded his first NHL career point (Rob Wilton/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants Bowen Byram records first NHL career point with Colorado Avalanche

Player with Langley-based WHL franchise assisted on goal against the Ducks

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read