CFL commissioner Ambrosie asks The Spring League CEO for partnership proposal

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has asked an American developmental football league for a formal proposal regarding a partnership between the two.

Brian Woods, CEO of The Spring League, said he spoke to Ambrosie Wednesday. Woods added Ambrosie was open to his concept and requested a formal proposal that he could present to the CFL's board of governors.

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Woods told The Canadian Press last week he'd approached Ambrosie about a partnership that would see CFL teams practising with and playing against The Spring League clubs in the U.S. in September.

Ambrosie announced May 20 a best-case scenario for the CFL was opening an abbreviated season in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But he also reiterated a cancelled 2020 campaign remains a possibility.

Ambrosie has approached the Canadian government for assistance. The league's three-part proposal includes $30 million immediately, more monies for an abbreviated season and up to an additional $120 million in the event of a cancelled campaign. While Ambrosie continues to work with government, he said Tuesday he's not banking on CFL-specific funding to help the league through the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The CFL continued meeting with government officials Thursday. It had sessions with Kyle Nicholson (senior policy adviser, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) and Olga Radchenko (policy adviser Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) as well as Aneil Jaswal (policy adviser, Finance Canada).

The CFL also met with Jaswal on Wednesday.

The Spring League is a developmental football operation. It consists of four teams — with 38 players on each roster — that practise jointly and play games at one facility.

Its season usually begins in March and generally lasts three weeks. Teams play two games apiece and during the off-season the league conducts tryout camps.

Initially, Woods was looking for between two and four CFL teams to combine with Spring League squads at an unspecified U.S. location for three to four weeks. He was very amenable to adopting Canadian rules and playing on longer, wider fields like squads in Canada do.

But on Thursday, Woods said his proposal will call for all nine CFL teams to play games in the U.S. alongside The Spring League in a "made for television" format.

Games would be played during the week beginning in September. They'd be scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to avoid conflicts with existing NFL and NCAA programming windows.

If the NCAA, or specifically any Power 5 conference — Big 12, Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, or Pac-12 — delays or cancels its 2020 season, U.S. college underclassmen would be eligible to participate and could sign with CFL or The Spring League teams.

The Spring League would also expand to five clubs, giving the partnership a 14-team format for the fall season.

The markets being considered for this plan include: Memphis, Birmingham, San Antonio, Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville.

Centralized training camps would be held in two of those cities. Once camps ended, the CFL teams would be based in two of the six proposed markets.

When The Spring League and CFL teams squared off, a hybrid of NFL-CFL rules would apply. The Spring League clubs would play by American rules in head-to-head matchups while CFL teams would play under Canadian rules.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.

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