Edmonton Elks clean house: Presson, Sunderland and Elizondo fired after dismal football season

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After one of their worst seasons in decades, the Edmonton Elks have fired the head coach and owners of the top office.

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The Edmonton Elks Football Club’s Board of Directors announced on Monday that, with immediate effect, the contracts for President and CEO Chris Presson, General Manager and Vice President of Football Operations Brock Sunderland and Head Coach Jaime Elizondo have been terminated.

“After much discussion and consideration, our Board of Directors determined our significant on- and off-field problems required change at the senior leadership level to correct the deficiencies and restore the trust and confidence of Elks fans and the community. to be rebuilt,” Elks board chairman Ian Murray said Monday afternoon.

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All three were informed of the decision on Monday morning, Murray said.

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The news came after the 3–11 season, in which the Elks finished last in the overall standings, but the team’s struggle was not only on the field. In early November, Presson apologized to fans not only for his on-field performance, but also for the team’s struggles with customer service and implementation of COVID-19 policies.

“To choose one thing or even one or two things (that went wrong) would be unfair,” Murray said. “It was really an accumulation of things.

“It got to the point where we really felt we had found a position as an organization where we needed a different leadership team to get out of the situation and turn things around in a timely manner.”

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Murray thanked Preson, Sunderland and Alisondo during the news conference.

“All three have contributed greatly to the CFL and the game of football and I want to thank all of them for the time they have spent with our club.”

The board said that the search has begun for the permanent replacement of the CEO and the general manager. In the interim, Alan Watts, the team’s executive director of marketing, has been named interim chief operating officer.

“Alan has a long history with our organization and community. His understanding of the Edmonton sports market is second to none. I thank him for his desire to continue supporting our organization and leading the club during this transition period. I want to thank them for that,” said Murray.

“The board is working aggressively to have a new CEO by the end of January,” said the news release, adding that talent acquisition firm Gallagher, previously Optimum Talent, will donate its services to the club.

The board said it has contracted longtime CFL player, coach, GM and executive Wally Buono to consult and advise the club on the hiring of a new general manager – expected to be named before the end of 2021 So the team is well prepared. Free agency launches in February.

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“Wally is the unmatched winner in this league and we are confident that with his help we will find the general manager who will lead this team to excellence,” Murray said.

“We are delighted that Wally has agreed to set aside its traditional competitive spirit against Edmonton and help us in this important work.”

Teams in the CFL have an operations cap – essentially a salary cap for coaches and managers – and the Elks will be affected by these changes, but the club can’t say what it will look like yet.

“Yeah it’s a factor,” Murray said. “Yes, it will have some adverse effect. The extent is, I am not in a position to tell this to you today.”

Murray said that the Elks are in discussions with the league about that cap, but did not specify what those discussions were.

The board acknowledged that the past 18 months have been an exceptionally challenging time for the organization, “but nothing more than its fans, season seat holders and community.”

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“The club will continue to actively engage with fans, season seat holders and key stakeholders to learn from their experiences to help facilitate a speedy rebuild on and off the field for the 2022 season,” the news release said.

Watts will lead a “proactive customer service engagement process” that will see the club reach out to fans and key stakeholders.

The team will use surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings and “digital outreach processes” to collect fan feedback.

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“We want to learn from their experiences and help them advance their ideas and make a quick return on and off the field for the 2022 season,” Murray said.

Watt said the team is looking at renewing some season ticket holders for next year and is reaching out to those who have yet to find out why.

He told reporters he didn’t have a percentage of how many people had their season tickets renewed, but said the team would be in the business of signing up more people to become season seat holders.



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