Randy Ambrosie, the CFL’s newly minted commissioner, had a baptism by fire during his first day on the job earlier this week.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/7/2017 (1817 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Randy Ambrosie, the CFL’s newly minted commissioner, had a baptism by fire during his first day on the job earlier this week.

And then he was the target of criticism after the CFL handed out what was deemed by many to be insufficient discipline for Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Will Hill, who had been penalized for abuse of an official and punching an opponent in separate incidents during a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week.

Hill, who grabbed the jersey of an official briefly, was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended for one game.

"It was my first day on the job — I let (senior vice-presidents) Glen (Johnson) and (Greg Dick), our football operations guys, largely, handle it," Ambrosie told reporters during a pregame news conference at Investors Group Field.

"What I said to them, and I said really only two things, one was that I was going to respect their decision and go with what they recommend to me and the only other things I would have said is, ‘I’m not here to be a tough guy.’ I’m not trying to prove to anybody that I can be a tough commissioner.

"What I want to do is keep our game safe and played fairly. I want to keep our players on the field and the only other overarching thing is our referees are incredibly important to our game and have to be respected."

Hill, who was suspended in 2012, 2013 and 2014 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, will serve his suspension this week.

Ambrosie also said similar incidents will be dealt with more harshly in the future and he did take the officials’ feeling into consideration.

"(The officials) were part of the discussion, so we were talking to them. Glen was talking to them through the process and I think they, in the end, understood the decision," Ambrosie said. "The one thing is I will not be tolerant of that type of behaviour again. If it happened again, the punishment will be much more severe. I wanted to use this moment, essentially, as a platform to say to the players, ‘Look, I want this to be a great game for all of us, but you can’t touch the referees and if you do, the next offence is going to be dealt with much more harshly.’"

Ambrosie also responded to questions on other league issues:

• The commissioner admitted concussions and the helmet-to-helmet hits and head shots that can cause them will be a focus for his administration.

"We just have to stress to the players, we have to work with them and get the coaches to work with them," Ambrosie said. "Head shots have got to come out of the game...

"This game is great, in part, because it is violent and it’s fun and there’s lots of collisions. The thing we’ve got to do is get rid of the head-to-head collisions. The second is we’ve got to get the players to help themselves. There’s things about the culture of the game — players don’t want to be down. They don’t want to take themselves out. We’ve got to find a way to convince the players to help each other."

• Ambrosie acknowledged attendance problems in Toronto are a major concern for the league. But he is confident the franchise can turn its fortunes around.

"In the case of the Argonauts, there would be three pre-conditions critical to having a future," he said. "The first pre-condition is you want great ownership. You want strong, deeply committed ownership. You get a chance to spend time with Larry Tanenbaum and his partner Bell, you put a check mark in that box. That is the most remarkable ownership you could have in that market. The second pre-condition will be you want a facility. You want a stadium good for football and very good for a fan experience, one that’s good to watch football in and people can enjoy coming to. You can put a gigantic check mark at BMO Field... And the third is you want great management and coaching and I think you can say that... underneath that all, there are seven million people living in the Golden Horseshoe... I’m just absolutely confident we’ll get an experience going in that field."

• Ambrosie was asked about the viability of the CFL as it faces a myriad of other sports and entertainment options in the marketplace.

"We cannot sustain ourselves — we will be wildly successful," Ambrosie said. "Sustainability is not my goal. I didn’t come here to tread water in the middle of the ocean until I get eaten by a shark. That is not how I think about this at all."

• The commissioner was also asked about his approach to expansion and whether it was a priority.

"I would not want to go pursuing expansion," he said. "But what I want to do is get this league to where it can be in the next two to five years — a big, fast, strong league. I think (then) expansion will come to us. I think we will find markets that want in to what this game represents."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.