CFL Pass

JONES: Duane Vienneau hired as CFL's Grey Cup guru

With the CFL’s new CBA finally ratified, that makes today an appropriate time to re-introduce Duane Vienneau.

You may remember Vienneau as the executive director of the 2018 Edmonton Grey Cup organizing committee.

During the last six weeks he quietly moved into a new job with the league with the impressive new title of Chief Grey Cup & Events Officer.

The CFL has yet to announced it but it’s not an insignificant hire.

Vienneau’s job in Edmonton was to direct the most ballistic Grey Cup ever.

Now his job is to help Calgary smash Edmonton’s success to smithereens and then go on to Regina and set a new standard and then head to Hamilton and … well, if he succeeds, the league should be on a much better financial footing three years from now for the next CBA, not that such thoughts have even crossed his mind.

All Vienneau cares about is building bigger, better Grey Cups. He did it here in 2010 and he did it again in 2018.

It has now become his full time job.

Not everybody is aware of how the landscape changed last year when the Edmonton Eskimos agreed to take one for the league with the hosting of the 106th Grey Cup.

It had become a great money grab in the previous number of years for the host franchise that often chose to provide a minimal number of enhancements and stuffed their pockets, usually to make up for losses in the previous season.

But last year Edmonton essentially reinvented the Grey Cup at the request of CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie to Eskimos board chairman Brad Sparrow.

The idea was to overload the event with attractions and activities to expand the demographics and create a far greater audience. The concept was to spend the money to grow the brand to make it the unquestioned national sports celebration of the year and at the same time bring in the money to share the wealth every year with the other franchises.

It was a staggering success.

Instead of fattening the Eskimos own bank account, the community owned flagship franchise agreed to test run a new model. Essentially the deal was that they’d keep only 40 per cent of the profits and give up the other 60 per cent to divide between the other teams and the league.

The Eskimos chose to reveal the numbers at the annual general meeting, which happened to be the same day Ken Holland was introduced as the new general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. It basically managed to get lost in the major hockey happening.

“In the first year of the new partnership model between the host club and the league, the Edmonton Grey Cup earned $7,096,910,” reported incoming chair and former treasurer Janice Agrios.

“The Eskimos share was just under $3 million. Edmonton will begin receiving distributions from future Grey Cups that will amount to an estimated $3-$4 million over the next five years.”

On the surface, that math doesn’t seem to add up.

“That’s now become my job,” said Vienneau.

In other words $7,096,910 isn’t the number they’re going to be shooting for in the next three years as the Grey Cup will be hosted by Calgary, Regina and Hamilton.

Think $10 million with a minimum of half a million going to every club in the league every year sooner than later.

The league hired Vienneau to basically become the executive director of all future Grey Cups with the idea to follow and annually improve on the model and the profit created last year.

“To be honest, my new role has been evolving for a while. It started when commissioner Randy Ambrosie engaged me to help the league through the bid cycle involving Regina, Hamilton and Montreal at the time,” he said of the 2020 and 2021 Grey Cups to follow Calgary this year.

“He wanted teams bidding accurately, not just throwing their name in the hat because it was their turn.

“He wanted to make sure they were putting in really good quality bids together, thinking about what they were going to do for Grey Cup through our new model.

“At that time I was also doing some work for Calgary. The Calgary Grey Cup committee asked if I would help them by sharing knowledge as we moved forward.

“That’s how it evolved. Before I knew it, Randy came to me and said ‘What do you think about this role?’

“What he envisioned was taking the league asset, which is the game, and the local asset, which is the festival, and sort of wrapping it all together to try to make Grey Cups bigger and better every year. That’s my challenge.

“The good thing about the role is that it’s brand new. It’s a created position.”

It wouldn’t have happened without the new revenue share model.

There was no job search. He just woke up one morning and discovered he had a new job if he’d agree to spend one week at the league office and one week in the host city each month and two at his home office.

“If Edmonton’s Grey Cup hadn’t been so successful, I don’t think I’d have had this job,” he said.


On Twitter: @ByTerryJones