Why the CFL chose Jeffrey Orridge as its new commissioner

Why the CFL chose Jeffrey Orridge as its new commissioner

After a five-month search, the Canadian Football League has found its new commissioner - current CBC executive director of sports Jeffrey Orridge.

CFL board of governors chair Jim Lawson introduced Orridge (who officially starts his new job April 29) to media at a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday. Orridge has a Harvard Law degree and has spent over 20 years in a wide variety of brand-building positions, many of them sports-focused. His CBC job had him overseeing rights acquisitions, partnerships, digital opportunities and more, and he previously held major roles at Right to Play, Mattel, Warner Brothers, Reebok and USA Basketball. Lawson said the CFL received tons of well-qualified applications, but Orridge's breadth of experience stood out.

"I think it's a real credit to the Canadian Football League and where it is today that we can attract such quality candidates," Lawson said. "We stuck to our job spec more than anything in terms of leadership, sports, media experience."

Orridge certainly has that. At the CBC, he helped land media rights to huge events such at the Olympics (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020), and he also managed to find a creative way to keep the cash-strapped broadcaster's Hockey Night In Canada brand via sublicensing from Rogers. Both the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 FIFA World Cup were huge successes for CBC under his direction in profitability, broadcast reach and the digital realm.

Orridge's sports and business experience goes well beyond that, though; he was the COO and head of global business development for Right to Play, the vice-president of corporate strategic planning for Mattel, the director of sport licensing for Warner Brothers, the director of global sports marketing for Reebok and the assistant executive director of USA Basketball. That's a remarkable and varied resume, and it's one that should serve him well in this new role. It's a role he should have for a while, too; Lawson said this was a long and deliberate search, and one designed to put in a commissioner who will be there for the forseeable future.

"We took our time and we wanted to make sure we get it right," he said. "It's certainly our intention that this is a long runway."

Lawson said Orridge's experience in reaching younger generations (at CBC, amongst many other things, he oversaw the hugely popular Olympics app and the digital Olympics coverage) was particularly vital to the board's choice.

"It's a very competitive sports and entertainment world," Lawson said. "We need to move the needle we need to reach out to that next generation. ...This was the skillset the board of governors thought would do that."