The Canadian Football League is calling an audible on its plans for the 2020 season and the 108th Grey Cup due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The league made the announcements Wednesday afternoon and was followed-up by a virtual town hall with commissioner Randy Ambrosie featuring questions from season ticket holders across the country.
“We’ve learned three things while trying to run a pro sports league during a pandemic,” Ambrosie said. “First is that certainty is really hard to come by and there are lots and lots of scenarios to consider. But in the end, public safety and the safety of our players is the most important consideration.”
There were three main components to the CFL announcement:
1. A SEPTEMBER RETURN?
Acknowledging that the situation revolving around the pandemic changes daily, the league has decided if it returns, the earliest it can begin play is September depending, obviously, on the recommendations of governments and health officials.
The decision was made due to the current restrictions on travel and public gatherings and without a vaccine in place for COVID-19. The statement also notes that a cancelled season is still possible.
“We want our fans to know this is a possible scenario – we are pursuing the opportunity to get back to football in the early fall, right around Labour Day,” said Ambrosie. “We know that in several of our CFL cities we would not be able to play until the end of August based on public health requirements, so we’re looking at September and onward as a possible scenario for getting back to this game that we all love so much.”
2. GREY CUP 2020 CHANGE
The 2020 Grey Cup, initially scheduled for November 22 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, will see a significant change. After discussions with the host Saskatchewan Roughriders, Regina will now host the 2022 festival – the 2021 game will be in Hamilton – with this year’s game, if it is played, now a ‘win and host’ format. In that scenario, the team with the best regular season record of the two clubs in the final would host the Grey Cup.
“We are quite disappointed… I think CFL fans from coast to coast wanted to go to Regina this year for the national celebration of our great game and be there in the heartland of our game in the prairies. But with all the things that have been happening around the pandemic, having a traditional Grey Cup just isn’t possible.”
There is also a possibility that the league may push the Grey Cup game into December as part of the later start to the season.
3. TOUCHOWN ATLANTIC CANCELLED
The league’s continuing push to establish a 10th franchise in the Maritimes has been impacted, with the Touchdown Atlantic game scheduled for July 25th in Halifax and featuring the Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts now postponed.
“One of the great disappointments in all of the news is we’re not going to be able to go to Halifax this year, to Atlantic Canada and stand shoulder to shoulder with all the amazing people that make up that region,” said Ambrosie. “(It would have been) and even more significant visit to Halifax because of the tragedy they underwent.
“We wanted to be there, we wanted to show CFL support for that great part of the country. But, unfortunately, because of the COVID virus we just had to make that decision… It is our intention to come back once this crisis passes and continue to embrace Atlantic Canada as a critical part of the CFL’s future.”
Ambrosie also answered questions submitted from season ticket holders across the country. Among them…
What do you think is more likely, games in the fall or the season cancelled?
“The honest answer is we don’t know. We are dealing with updates daily. We are talking with public health officials, we’re talking with the cities and the provinces and the federal government, trying to understand how they’re seeing this all unfold.
“The truth is we don’t know how this is going to unfold. That’s why it was important to rally around several scenarios that would give us the possibility of playing, if we can. We are aware of the very real possibility that we won’t play this year, but as they say, ‘hope springs eternal’ and we’re going to try and keep a positive attitude and hope that somehow, someway we’ll play in 2020.”
Where do things stand with the request for federal funding? Can the league survive without that funding?
Ambrosie said the league last met with representatives of the federal government last Friday. He also spoke of working with the team’s governors and presidents and that “there is no quit in any of those people. We’re looking at all possible ways to make sure that we survive this crisis and that we come back bigger, stronger and better than ever in 2021 and beyond.
“Right now it’s survive the crisis. That’s our strategy. And then set ourselves up to thrive into the future.”
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