TORONTO — Fresh off a busy European road trip, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie expects contract talks between the league and its players will begin sometime next month.
Ambrosie said the two sides met informally in January during the CFL's medical meetings in Montreal but no actual bargaining took place. The current agreement expires in May.
"They (players) shared with us that they were doing their groundwork, as are we," Ambrosie said in a telephone interview Saturday. "They expected they'd be in a position to give us notice to bargain probably in and around the middle of March.
"Look, I think we're all anxious. I really am looking forward to sitting down with the players and sharing a vision for a bigger CFL and one where our players, coaches, teams and fans can all benefit from."
Ambrosie is a former CFL offensive lineman and secretary of the Canadian Football League Players' Association. He said it takes time for the union to formulate a strategy and communicate it thoroughly with members who reside throughout North America.
"Having been on the other side . . . that's perfectly normal and logical," Ambrosie said. "Our job is to be ready to go when they are and that's what we've been doing.
"We're expecting the PA will take a professional approach to their negotiations and as will we."
In the meantime, CFL has plenty of other irons in the fire.
Last week, Ambrosie secured partnerships with the French American Football Federation and Austrian Football Federation as well as officials from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. This came after the CFL had reached similar agreements with Mexico's Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional and the German Football League.
Under terms of the agreements, the CFL and those leagues will work to allow Canadians who've completed their university and/or junior careers to continue playing abroad. The deals also call for European players to attend school and play university football in Canada.
Another provision is for select players from Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark to participate in the CFL's national combine next month in Toronto. Players from Austria won't be there, though, because their season is scheduled to begin March 16.
There won't be any Mexican players in Toronto, either. That's because the CFL put 51 players from Mexico through a combine in Mexico City in January, with the nine Canadian teams drafting 27 Mexican players over three rounds the following day.
The CFL is now working through the logistics of incorporating the European players into its national combine. Ambrosie said European officials were given a "grid" of what the average U Sports player test results would be as a guideline.
"I'm optimistic we could see maybe 10 or more from Europe, which would be a great start," he said. "They didn't flinch when I showed them the grid and were really pleased we'd put that together to give them some perspective."
Ambrosie said there's much interest from the European federations about getting their players into the Canadian university ranks.
"I think there was a sense that if it was an option for many of those families, Canada would be a welcomed destination for those kids," he said.
But Ambrosie said the benefits of the partnerships haven't stopped there.
"Very real conversations are taking place on the TV broadcast side," he said. "There's a discussion happening in Mexico right now with one of their broadcasters having shown interest in a TV deal with us.
"(This week) I was in the room with Sweden and they asked immediately if they could get connected to have a conversation about what we might do there."
Ambrosie, an admitted optimist, said he's been pleasantly surprised by the reception he's received from his international counterparts.
"I went into every one of those rooms believing good things can happen but you can't account for the enthusiasm they have for this idea," he said. "It's a fascinating world outside of what might've been our traditional approach to CFL football and it is opening doors for sure."