CFL: struggling, Edmonton Elks to rethink business model

EDMONTON – The Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Elks have formed a commission to review their business model, particularly at the club’s ownership level, as the Alberta team faces increasing financial pressure.

The goal of the five-member board is to “ensure that pro football continues to thrive within the CFL in Edmonton and northern Alberta,” Elks president Tom Richards said Thursday.

The team has been owned by the community since its founding in 1949. The club’s interim president and CEO, Rick LeLacheur, said the team did attract the attention of private investors.

“I told them they had to wait. We haven’t had any negotiations,” LeLacheur said. It is a wonderful place for sports, wonderful for football and I believe there will be interest, from one investor or group. »

LeLacheur, who is a non-voting board member, said earlier Thursday that “we cannot turn a blind eye to the club’s financial problems over the last few seasons.”

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, decisions about football operations, as well as the problems on the field that followed, contributed to this difficult financial situation. »

LeLacheur, who agreed to stay on until the end of the process, explained that the team had to resort to stabilization investment funds to cover ongoing costs.

“If we stay the same course in 2024, those funds risk a dangerous reduction,” LeLacheur added.

The committee consists of Richards, fellow board members Brent Hesje and Darryl Boessenkool, as well as former board members Diane Brickner and Bruce Bentley. The latter acts as the chairman of this committee.

The team posted operating losses of $3.3 million in 2022, the fourth straight losing year for the Elks.

LeLacheur, who arrived in August 2022 to replace Victor Cui, is confident the Elks will be able to compete in the 2024 season, but new investments are necessary for the future.

“We will need big investments for the future, because it will take us several years to absorb this accumulated deficit,” he stressed.

News of the Elks’ financial woes is the latest shock to what was once a model CFL franchise.

The club has amassed 699 wins, tied with Calgary for the most in league history. He also won 14 Gray Cups, the last one in 2015.

But Edmonton hasn’t made the playoffs since 2019, when it used the crossover rule to reach the East semifinals thanks to its fourth-place finish in the West with an 8-10 record.

Since the CFL resumed operations in 2021 following the canceled 2020 season, the Elks have finished in last place in the West three times, never collecting more than four wins in a season.

On August 28, the team snapped a 22-game losing streak at home, the longest in all of North American professional sports.

An average of 24,700 spectators have passed through the Commonwealth Stadium fence this season. In 2015, the club led the CFL in average attendance of 31,517 per game. Next year, the Elks will not sell tickets in the upper section of their 56,400-seat stadium.

The Elks improved their ground situation after Canadian running back Tre Ford took control of the offense. LeLacheur also thinks the situation is better since Ford is the starter.

“We are selling a good number of season tickets, which is a good sign. »

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