Canadian football organizations present Ambrosie with rules suggestions in XFL talks

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Amateur football organizations in Canada want CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie to maintain Canadian football's traditional components and the league's Canadian ratio in its partnership talks with the XFL.

Last week, U Sports, the Canadian Junior Football League, Canadian Football Officials Association and Football Canada sent a joint policy letter to Ambrosie for consideration. In a copy obtained by The Canadian Press, the organizations uniformly requested the CFL "remains committed to the essential rule components of Canadian Football within Canada."

That includes "traditional field width and length, goal line to goal line," as well as "12 players aside."

The letter also requests the CFL "remains committed to the participation and development of the Canadian athlete in their sport within Canada by maintaining the current mandate of starter and roster positions for National players."

CFL teams must have at least 21 Canadians on game-day rosters with at least seven being starters.

The policy letter was clear its points were for Ambrosie's consideration and not demands.

"We support dialogue at all levels to further promote the sport," the letter said. "We respect the requirements of professional football to seek paths to greater sustainability and profitability.

"We value the interdependent relationship between professional and amateur football as a path to mutual growth."

The CFL did not immediate return a message asking if Ambrosie had received the letter.

There was no mention in the policy regarding either the Canada's traditional 20-yard end zones or implementation of three or four downs.

The absence of the latter wasn't a surprise. Both versions are played in this country at the grassroots level, although the CFL plays with three downs.

Last month, the CFL and XFL announced they were entering serious discussions on a potential partnership. Ambrosie said Wednesday talks between the two leagues have dealt with the financial logistics of a partnership and not about such things as rules or field size.

A source said the XFL's rules committee includes Dwayne Johnson, the mega star actor who's also an XFL co-owner. Johnson, a former defensive lineman at the University of Miami, spent time on Calgary's practice roster in 1995 but neve appeared in a regular-season game with the Stampeders.

After being released by Calgary, Johnson embarked on a very successful career in professional wrestling before becoming an actor.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the CFL nor the XFL have commented publicly about the specifics of their talks or who sits on the various committees. Johnson has not responded to a request by The Canadian Press for comment.

The CFL-XFL announcement prompted many fans in Canada to voice concerns on social media about how a partnership could negatively impact the Canadian game. It's a fact not lost upon the Canadian amateur organizations.

"In our view, maintaining the essential components of the Canadian rules in terms of field dimensions and player complement would allow for amateur football to continue without redevelopment of infrastructure, which is costly in terms of all resource metrics," the organizations said in their policy letter. "At a time when university and junior programs are challenged on numerous fronts, it is in the interest of the sport to be part of an ecosystem that delivers outcomes for athletes within Canada.

"The CFL plays an essential role in long-term athletic development and football infrastructure in Canada. However, the potential of dramatic changes to the Canadian game at the professional level could damage the stability of many aspects and operations of the sport.

"We would appreciate an ongoing dialogue to clarify the impact of proposed changes at the professional level on the amateur level."

Especially given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tackle football in Canada. The novel coronavirus effectively forced a shutdown of that game across the country in 2020.

The CFL is expecting to resume play in 2021, but last week pushed back the start of its regular season from June 10 to Aug. 5 due the novel coronavirus. Ambrosie was emphatic the revision was a '"target date" subject to change based upon the global pandemic.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press