Riders optimistic about potential CFL, XFL partnership
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Roughriders are excited for what the future of the CFL could hold, now that a partnership with the XFL has been put on the table.
“The fact that we’re talking about how to collaborate and how to innovate and how to grow the game of football is exciting,” said Riders president and CEO Craig Reynolds. “I’m excited that we’re having these conversations. It’s an impressive ownership group with impressive track records and I think it’s worth having a conversation.”
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie calls the collaboration a mutual decision to enter talks with the XFL owners, and says they all share a similar passion.
“How do we grow the game of football? How do we create more opportunities for players? How do we create a greater connection with our fans?” Ambrosie told CTV News. “There seem to be so many points of common intersections that we thought, let’s talk and see where this can take us.”
The XFL consists of eight teams. In April 2020, the professional football league – which is in the United States – filed for bankruptcy following a five-week season. The CFL didn’t compete at all in 2020.
“We need to energize our league and we need new fans and that’s what this exercise is all about,” Ambrosie said.
The XFL ownership group includes Dany Garcia and former CFL hopeful Dwayne Johnson. Johnson, also known as The Rock, tried out for the Calgary Stampeders but was cut following training camp. But while he was there, Johnson formed a strong relationship with former coach Wally Buono. The movie star has a wide reach and large audience, with more than 15 million Twitter followers and 222 million followers on Instagram.
“You cannot underestimate the amazing power of what Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson have built,” Ambrosie said.
However, the rules, style of play and even the field dimensions of the CFL and XFL are different. At the grass roots level, Mike Thomas, the director of operations with Football Saskatchewan, says maintaining the game should be a priority.
“We would definitely want to ensure that the Canadian game is preserved as much as possible. That’s been the breadth and the history of what we have here,” Thomas said. “We just really want to see that program, the [CFL] itself have the ability to just be back.”
Ambrosie wouldn’t shed light on whether or not the league would prioritize keeping the traditional Canadian game on the field.
“At present it’s about having a conversation, we haven’t framed what we are expecting to get out of it,” Ambrosie said.
Instead, Ambrosie and the CFL is focused on playing in 2021. The Riders share the same school of thought.
“Our main goal right now and our main priority is getting as many fans as we possibly can into Mosaic stadium and seeing Roughriders football in 2021,” Reynolds said.