CFLman: Interview with Larry Smith

Hello Mr. Smith,

First, I want to congratulate you and all your staff for the excellent 15-3 season and the Grey Cup. I am preparing an article on the upcoming training camp and I have some questions about on the following topics.

GREY CUP

  • I believe it's your first Grey Cup as Chairman and CEO of the Alouettes is not it? What were your impressions? Did you breathe a sigh of relief?

«We were very happy to win the Cup after many tries. It is not easy to win a championship in any league.»

  • Last year, in one of my articles, I wrote that there were about 250.000 to 300.000 people at the Grey Cup parade. I called the city of Montreal to get the official number and was told that the police no longer give out estimates of crowds. Do you have a more precise estimate of the crowd? Did the managers of the Alouettes expect a crowd so large?

«The crowd in 2002 was approx 200,000 and we hoped for a larger crowd in 2009 which was estimated at 250,000 people.»

  • What are the repercussions of the victory of the Grey Cup for the Alouettes' organization?

«After winning there are always higher expectations in the community to win a second championship.»

NEGOTIATIONS

  • How are the negotiations going with Jim Popp?

«Negotiations with Jim Popp are ongoing.»

  • How are the negotiations between the league and the players union? - Do you believe in the possibility of a lockout in the CFL? - What is causing the bottleneck in negotiations between the CFL and the players?

«CBA negotiations are also ongoing and everyone on both sides wants to get a deal but some issues still has to be resolved as per any negotiation. You should speak to the commissioner for more details.»

MCGILL STADIUM

  • Will the McGill Stadium be ready in time for the first game?

«The stadium will be ready for the first game.»

  • 25,000 seats is the maximum at McGill. If another stadium were available, what would be the ideal number of seats to fill the needs of your organization? - Since there will be no opportunity for expansion at McGill, is there a plan B to relocate the Alouettes in the future? Costs will continue to increase and I imagine that one day, 25,000 seats will not be enough.

«The Ideal CFL size is 28,000 seats. We will focus on making the upgraded facility work before looking to add more seats.»

  • Currently how many season tickets are still available to the public?

«There are approx. 2500 seats still available for season ticket purchase in the gold, silver and bronze categories. Very few platinum left. Every seat in the stadium is a good seat. Everyone’s budget can be serviced at the stadium.»

TRAINING CAMPS

  • Have the Alouettes found a permanent site for training?

«Practice facility the studies continue. »

  • Last year some people mentioned the Montreal Canadiens site in Brossard for your next training camp - is that correct?

«We will not move to Brossard.»

  • Will there be a special opening day for the general public at Bishop’s on Sunday, June 6th?

«We will have an opening day at Bishop's and final touches to the plans are underway.»

FRANCHISE IN THE CFL

  • What do you think of the Argonauts regular season game in Moncton? - Do you think that Moncton who has only 20,000 seats capacity is closer to getting a CFL team than Quebec City?

«The Toronto game in Moncton is good for the CFL.To early to tell whether Moncton could support a CFL team.»

  • During the Olympics, did you talk about the possibility of a CFL franchise in Quebec City with Mr. Aubut? If yes, what did he say?

«No discussions with Marcel Aubut about a CFL team in Quebec city.»

  • What do you know about the franchise in Ottawa?

«Ottawa appears to be progressing. Speak to the CFL.»

THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS

  • The situation in Hamilton has gotten a little better, the Tiger Cats will have a new stadium in 2016. In the case of Toronto, for many reasons, the situation is worrisome. Do you have any comments on the sale of the Argonauts?

«The best person to rebuild Toronto is David Braley who has a very strong passion and commitment to the CFL.»

  • What are your thoughts on the NFL being played in Toronto the same day that the Argonauts will play a game elsewhere?

«I've always said the NFL won’t work in Toronto as the scale of the NFL is too big for this market to support over the long haul and our TV market won't add enough value to the equation.»

THE ALOUETTES

  • It's not easy to win two Grey Cups in a row. What is required to succeed?

«To repeat as a Cup winner you need a great team, a great coaching staff, great focus and great timing and luck.»

MEDIA

  • On the radio, games will now be on 94.3 FM. Chorus was about to be sold to Cogeco, do you think this has influenced the negotiations between Chorus and management of the Alouettes?

«Chorus knew what was happening during our negotiations. Would it have been different if the discussions had not taken place? I don't think so.»

  • The choice of 94.3 is surprising. What are the benefits for the Alouettes?

«We believe that FM represents a great opportunity to solicit a younger vibrant demographic.»

OTHER TOPICS

  • Are you still getting requests for tickets from fans living in Baltimore?

«Each year the pulse from Baltimore fades into memory which is par for the course.»

  • Do you think that the NFL granted a franchise to Baltimore to stop the CFL in this city?

«The NFL did what was best for the NFL.The CFL was never a consideration as we were in their market place.»

  • Have you ever been afraid of losing your son-in-law Damon Duval to the NFL?

«If Damon ever wants to go to the NFL that will be his call with Ashley.»

  • Speaking of Damon, after you saw his winning field goal at the Grey Cup, what did you say to him?

«I was happy and proud that Damon made the kick.»

Mr. Smith thank you very much for your kindness and your availability.

CFLman.

The French interview

http://legrandclub.rds.ca/profils/cflman/posts/73059

Article about Jim Popp in French

http://legrandclub.rds.ca/profils/cflman/posts/72409

Alouettes President and CEO, Larry Smith, will be honoured by the Government of Quebec this June 3, as he will have bestowed upon him the Ordre national du Québec, with the title of “Chevalier du Québec.? The award will be presented to him by Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

A running back with the Alouettes in the 1970s, Smith played in five Grey Cups, winning twice (1974 & 1977). He was a key architect in bringing the Alouettes back to Montreal in 1996 after a nine-year absence and has since helped build football into one of the biggest sports in the province.

“The renaissance of the Alouettes has been due to the work of a great team and it is my privilege to share this honour with everyone who has helped make us a great success – from our management group to our fans, players and team personnel,? said Smith, who also volunteered as the president of the Canada Games Council from 2001 through 2009.

Smith has shown his commitment to the youth of Quebec by establishing the CN Adopt an Alouette program, designed to promote education in the province and give students objectives in life.

“I’m especially proud that the government recognized our community efforts as part of the reason for choosing me for this great honour,? Smith said. “Our work in the community is an essential part of our corporate mission, and I am ecstatic to see that we’ve helped kids to stay active and succeed in school.?

The Alouettes visit no less than 120 schools every year, having reached out to roughly 500,000 kids over the last decade.

Recently, Smith also played a key role in completing the McGill Stadium expansion project, allowing the Alouettes to play in front of 5,000 more fans per game as of this coming season.