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'Significant on and off-field problems': Edmonton Elks fire president, general manager and head coach


The Edmonton Elks cleaned house on Monday after a tumultuous season with issues on and off the field.

The team fired team president Chris Presson, general manager Brock Sunderland and head coach Jamie Elizondo.

“Our significant on and off-field problems required changes at the senior leadership levels in order to rectify the shortcomings and rebuild the trust and confidence of the Elks fans and community,” said Ian Murray, chair of the team’s board of directors. 

He said the three were informed of their terminations earlier Monday morning.

The Elks lost their final game 43-10 to the B.C. Lions on Friday and finished the season with three wins and 11 losses, and went winless at home.

"The lack of home wins didn't put people in a very good mood," said Murray.

Murray said the team “got to a point of unprecedented irritation” from fans due to issues around ticketing and game day experience. 

They also had the CFL's worst COVID-19 outbreak of the season when more than a dozen team members tested positive for the disease.

"Some of the issues are operations, some are pure business. The accumulation of these issues percolated and crystalized over these last several months and it became apparent change was necessary,” said Murray.

The team hopes to have both a new general manager and president in place by mid-January. 

Team presidents typically are tasked with hiring a general manager, but Murray said the opening of free agency in February means the two positions will be recruited for at the same time.


Veteran Calgary Stampeders and  B.C. Lions coach and general manager Wally Buono will serve in a transitional role until a new general manager is in place. 

Presson declined comment when reached by phone. He was hired in 2019 and oversaw the team's name change that was accelerated by a sponsor backlash in the summer of 2020.

Murray said the roll-out of the new team name went well, citing bumper merchandise sales, but that team’s demographics were "brutal" and were largely made up of older white men. 

“That's not representative of our community,” he said. “We have a structural, long-term trend that is problematic.”

Last December, the team announced it had extended Sunderland's contract until 2023. He faced a number of controversies during his tenure.  

The team is still in litigation with a former front office employee who alleges he was wrongfully dismissed after refusing multiple requests from Sunderland to skirt the league's salary cap. 

In September of 2020, the team let go equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak in his 49th season with the team, a move that drew ire from fans.

Last month, a former player was fired from his role on the team's radio broadcasts on 630 CHED after he made comments critical of Sunderland. 

Edmonton failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2018, and the lack of wins drove fans away in record numbers. Only two of the seven home games managed to register more than 30,000 in attendance at Commonwealth.

Murray said that there was “a lot of negative stuff that the board is very concerned about” but also that it would be “inappropriate” to pick one reason for the front office overhaul.

"There's no simple answer to what went wrong,” he said. “We are committed to fixing the problems both on and off the field.” Top Stories

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