Orridge Says Groundwork for Success in Place for Next CFL Commissioner

By Ralph, Dan | The Canadian Press, May 30, 2017 | Go to article overview

Orridge Says Groundwork for Success in Place for Next CFL Commissioner


Ralph, Dan, The Canadian Press


Orridge set to depart as CFL commissioner

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TORONTO - Jeffrey Orridge has some friendly advice for his successor: Stay the course.

Orridge will step down as CFL commissioner June 30 after just over two years on the job. The search for Orridge's replacement continues but it's unclear if the successful candidate will be in place when the 2017 regular season begins June 22.

Orridge feels the groundwork for success is already in place for the next CFL commissioner.

"I'd say the first thing is to analyse and appreciate the foundation that's been laid and recognize all the things that are going right," Orridge said Tuesday. "The fact we rebranded a couple of years ago, we've now got greater brand recognition.

"Our television viewership is up from last year, our female demographic is up from last year, the 18-to-49 demo is up from last year so our focus on attracting and engaging that next generation of fans is working at the same time we've been able to keep the attention and engagement of our current fans. So look at the positive momentum and trends we've established right now, take stock of it and build on that innovation because status quo isn't an option with the global marketplace being so competitive these days."

The CFL announced Orridge's departure -- which was agreed upon mutually -- in a statement April 12. No reason was given but Orridge reiterated Tuesday he and the board of governors had differing views regarding the league's future.

"I'm not going to get into specifics or details about that but that's essentially where we are," Orridge said. "We made a decision it would be best to part ways."

Orridge, a New York native, made headlines when he was hired in March 2015, becoming the first African American chief executive of a major North American sports league. A Harvard Law School graduate, Orridge arrived with an impressive resume, having served as executive director of sports and general manager of Olympics at CBC following stints with USA Basketball and Reebok International.

Mandated with boosting the CFL's appeal to younger fans, Orridge launched partnerships with DraftKings Inc. -- a daily fantasy sports site -- and digital network Whistle Sports. The league also revamped its website -- reportedly resulting in traffic doubling this year -- and Orridge worked to improve social media engagement, often using his own Twitter account to promote league initiatives.

But even as commissioner, Orridge couldn't act unilaterally. He reports to the CFL's board of governors, which consists of 27 individuals -- three representatives per team.

A big part of the job is creating consensus to get things done, which can be challenging given many board members are strong personalities who've succeeded outside of football. Coincidentally, Orridge's replacement will be the CFL's seventh commissioner since November 2000 while the NHL has had one commissioner over that span and major league baseball, the NBA and NFL have all had two.

It hasn't always been clear sailing for Orridge.

During his first year on the job, he often struggled for answers when asked about league matters. Orridge also came under fire when the league got into a public spat with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport that resulted in the CFL not having drug testing for more than a year.

Ultimately, Orridge secured a new policy with the CFL Players' Association that was implemented into the existing collective-bargaining agreement. …

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