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Winnipeg Blue Bombers boss says CFL, XFL talks could be good news for league

The D.C. Defenders, right, line up against the Seattle Dragons for the opening kickoff of the opening football game of the XFL season, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Stephen Whyno)

Discussions between the CFL and XFL about a potential partnership are underway, and the president of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers says it could be very good news overall for the Canadian league.

The two sides say they are looking to identify opportunities for the leagues to collaborate, innovate and grow the game of football.

“We can grow the game of football in Canada as well as in North America and around the world — which we started to do with adding international players,” Bombers president Wade Miller told 680 CJOB.

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“We really just wanted our fans to know that we’re having these discussions and that they’re in their initial stages.”

“This is for the future — our focus this year is about playing in 2021 in the CFL and getting the Blue Bombers back on the field and our fans back in the stands.”

The U.S.-based XFL was purchased last year by actor and former pro-wrestler Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, along with a few business partners, and is expected to resume play next spring.

Read more: CFL, XFL in talks over potential partnership

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The six-team league was rebooted in 2018 after the failure of an earlier incarnation started by pro-wrestling magnate Vince McMahon of the WWE.

The original XFL existed for a single season in 2001 and was criticized for relying heavily on ‘sports entertainment’ gimmicks similar to those seen in the wrestling ring.

Dwayne Johnson. Photo: CP Images.

When CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie joined CJOB 680 later in the day Wednesday he said nothing has been decided and all potential options will be explored, but stressed talks are still in the early stages.

While Ambrosie said he understands some fans may be worried the Canadian game might change as a result of the discussions with all things on the table, he said the league decided to go into the meetings without “proclamations” and “barriers.”

Read more: Winnipeg Blue Bombers sign Briggs to one-year pact, ‘no-brainer’ for Neufeld to return

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“We want to have an open and honest discussion around how we grow the game of football and make it bigger and make it stronger,” Ambrosie said.

“Make no mistake about it, the people at at the XFL, the ownership group, have a lot of respect for what we’ve got —  for our traditions — for the history of the league.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

“And and we see in them capabilities that are quite remarkable. So it’s I think it’s going to be a very healthy conversation.”

Miller said the current ownership group of the XFL — including Johnson who spent time on the Calgary Stampeders’ practice squad before shifting to wrestling — is made up of people with a great deal of success in business and sports, so there’s no downside for the CFL to hear what they have to say.

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“Nothing’s been discussed in terms of how we move forward, but it’s just two organizations that have the passion for football, and how do we grow football? How do we build on the proud heritage of the CFL and move forward?

“We love our game and we want to strengthen it. We’d have to be crazy as a league not to have conversations with groups like this that can strengthen our league.”

After being forced to cancel the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFL is expecting to return to the field this year.

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The XFL’s 2020 season, then under its previous ownership headed McMahon, was called off after five weeks because of the pandemic.

Johnson said in October that the XFL would return in the spring of 2022, but XFL president and CEO Jeffrey Pollack said Wednesday that those plans are now on pause.

Ambrosie has said anything agreed upon by the two leagues would kick in either in 2022 or beyond.

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–With files from The Canadian Press

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