CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie was a recent guest on the Tim & Friends show on Sportsnet in Canada. Host Tim Micallef asked the Commissioner about the potential XFL/CFL merger and why it fell through.
One criticism of the talks between the XFL and CFL was that it was a waste of time for the CFL. Clearly, that is not the case at all. Following the talks, the CFL did the most extensive brand review in its history.
“Well, the conversation with the XFL was interesting, to be sure. And in the end, it was always about figuring out was there an opportunity for both sides… But there were things that we learned during that process, and certainly, we learned just how passionate CFL fans are about our game. In fact, this product review process that we launched this year started with perhaps the biggest consumer research study we’ve ever done. What did fans want? We involved perhaps the most inclusive process. We involved all of our presidents and coaches, and GMs in a review. “
What came after was a partnership with Genius Sports, which took a 10% stake in the CFL, and many rule changes to keep the game fast and increase scoring.
“In the end, it was an affirmation that we can do that on our three down game and use this gigantic field, which is one of the greatest assets we have, use it to our advantage.”
They did not change their game from three downs to four downs which was a big concern to CFL fans during the talks. In fact, it was never really considered.
“It was an honest question. If you want the game that the brand of football that is the most fun and the fastest and the most entertaining in the world, how do you do that? And so you put it all out there and then we brought a whole group of people together. And in the end, that conversation about four downs lasted about five minutes, and everything else was how do we take our game? How do we use this giant pallet that is a 65 yard wide field and 110 long and 20 yard end zones, almost 700 space per player? How do you make sure that you can use that entire canvas to paint a picture and the energy that our coaches and presidents and GM and the League office put into that? It was a celebration that we’ve got the right game at the right time and we can build a future on it.”
For XFL fans, if the talk of four downs was off the table from the start. What was the XFL talking to the league for so long? Sources close to the negotiations told me everything under the sun. Could the XFL become a three-down football league? Could they have played a Championship game against the top teams in the CFL and XFL? The XFL spent lots of time and consultants trying to get the CFL on board with a partnership to help both brands.
In the end, some team owners within the CFL felt that despite the name of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and RedBird Capital. The XFL had to prove something first, and some CFL owners didn’t want American influence in their game and were never really opened to any suggestions or ideas from the XFL. They wanted to keep things status quo despite concerns about the CFL’s financial position.
Just before the CFL kicked off its 2021 season, the league announced that talks were off with the XFL, and the chapter was closed.
The XFL, according to XFL insider Mike Mitchell was on the fence about trying to start up the XFL 3.0 era after they spent so much time and resources talking to the CFL. The league paused and then began talks with the NFL in August of 2021, and the XFL 3.0 era was back on track.
The CFL recently ended its strike, and the season will start on June 9th. The XFL will hold its first player showcases since 2019 on June 17th. With kick-off set for February 18th, 2023.
After the XFL/CFL talks ended, Ambrosie left the door open for future discussions with the XFL. It will be interesting to see how both leagues are doing three years from now. Both sides will look back at their talks as a pivotal moment for both leagues’ histories.
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