Former MLSE executive on shortlist to be CFL commissioner: sources

Former MLSE executive on shortlist to be CFL commissioner: sources

The Canadian Football League is down to a shortlist of candidates for its commissioner position, with sources telling TSN a former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment executive is among the finalists.

Tom Anselmi, the former MLSE president and chief operating officer, is still in the running for the CFL's top job, three people familiar with the matter told TSN. It's unclear who the other finalists are.

Anselmi is well respected in the sports industry as a down-to-earth hard worker (he worked his way through college by driving a taxi). Anselmi worked for MLSE for 17 years after helping to manage the construction of SkyDome in downtown Toronto. He pursued the MLSE chief executive position when Richard Peddie retired, but was passed over for Tim Leiweke.

Anselmi was also recently interviewed for the top position at Hockey Canada, which ultimately was awarded to Tom Renney.

Several people familiar with the matter told TSN the CFL has been surprised and impressed by the high pedigree of applicants for the commissioner position, which is expected to pay between $750,000 and $1 million a year. The league has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to help oversee its recruitment of a commissioner.

Whoever is hired will succeed former commissioner Mark Cohon, who was hired in 2007, and will inherit a league that is on mostly steady ground.

CFL executives and those close to the league say the CFL has three main issues that need to be addressed: the situation in Toronto, where the Argonauts - with seemingly little leverage - will have to find a home when the Blue Jays install a natural grass field in three years; boosting on-field scoring (teams averaged 21 points per game this year, down from 26.2 points a year ago, according to Yahoo Sports); and helping to steer the league's decisions regarding expansion.

There are no franchises east of Montreal in the nine-team league. Quebec City and Halifax are both speculated to be potential new markets for the CFL.

While local business leaders in Halifax covet a team, it's unclear whether they will be able to lobby government to provide public funding for a stadium. Two years ago, Halifax city council approved $20 million for a new stadium, but the effort fizzled after the provincial government denied financial support, The Halifax Chronicle Herald reported.

"Jim Lawson, the chairman of the CFL board of governors, has stated on the record that we have excellent candidates and the search for the next commissioner is going well," CFL spokesman Jamie Dykstra wrote in an emailed statement. "Out of respect for the process, the selection committee has agreed to not comment on who those candidates may or may not be."

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