Winnipeg set to become CFL hub city if league has 2020 season

Winnipeg set to become CFL hub city if league has 2020 season

Winnipeg set to become CFL hub city if league has 2020 season

TORONTO — Winnipeg will be the hub city for the CFL’s shortened 2020 season if the league reaches several goals.

The CFL chose Winnipeg over bids from Calgary and Saskatchewan on Tuesday.

The deal still needs final approval from public health and safety officials in Manitoba.

The CFL also says it needs a new collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players’ Association, and significant federal government support to start a 2020 season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFL has set a deadline of Thursday for a new CBA.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest action could begin is September. The season originally was slated to start in June.

If the season goes ahead, players and coaches will be in a bubble consisting of hotels, practice fields and a stadium.

“The health and safety of our players, staff and the wider community are paramount and the CFL will only return to play with the approval of health officials and medical experts,” Blue Bombers president/CEO Wade Miller said in a statement.

“While today marks just one more step in our process, we’re grateful for the support of the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg, and the work all Manitobans have done together to fight this pandemic and make our province as safe as possible.”

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced an offer of $2.5 million on Monday to help pay for accommodations, transportation, practice field rentals and more. Saskatchewan offered $3 million later in the day, but the league still settled on Winnipeg.

CFL players concerned about their safety in a shortened ‘20 season will have the right to opt out without penalty.

The CFL and CFLPA continue to negotiate amendments to the current collective bargaining agreement to allow for a condensed season to be played.

Two sources said Tuesday even if the two sides successfully amend CBA by Thursday — the CFL-mandated deadline — players concerned about their safety will be allowed to opt out with impunity.

Last week, Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Brandon Banks — the CFL’s most outstanding player last year — tweeted he wasn’t planning on playing this season.

The sources were granted anonymity because the CFL and CFLPA haven’t formally announced details of their ongoing negotiations.

The sources said the two sides continue to discuss the logistics of American players coming to Canada being tested before their arrival here.

Miller is optimistic a deal can be reached.

“We’re working really positively with our players,” Miller said during a telephone interview. “Everyone is looking for a solution to get our players back on the field playing football.

“It’s very positive.”

Predictably, Miller wouldn’t comment about any specifics being discussed.

Manitoba’s plan calls for a 60-game schedule and Grey Cup to be played in Winnipeg.

Earlier this month, the league submitted a revised financial request to Ottawa for roughly $42.5 million in aid.

In April, the CFL asked the federal government for up to $150 million in assistance in the event of a cancelled 2020 season due to the pandemic. The new request covers operating costs and player salaries for a shortened campaign and includes a letter of support from the CFLPA.

But the CFL’s revised request will require co-operation from the six provinces its franchises operate within. That’s because Ottawa is dealing with the league’s offer via the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), which is a federal agency but also a crown corporation, meaning the federal government can’t mandate financial assistance for the CFL.

The BDC is essentially a bank with lending criteria and the CFL is unlikely to qualify given its financial state. To secure financial assistance, the league would likely require the Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. governments to serve as guarantors on any funding provided.

That could be an issue as Ontario sports minister Lisa MacLeod has stated there are many other sectors within the province that also require government help.

If there’s a shortened ’20 season, it would afford the CFL an opportunity to go with one division rather than its traditional East-West format.

A 60-game season would mean each team plays six regular-season contests. The top eight would make the playoffs, with the final two teams meeting in the Grey Cup game.

The Manitoba government’s bid calls for all players to be tested upon their arrival to Winnipeg. That could create a risk, given many players would be coming from the U.S., where COVID-19 has caused far bigger problems.

But the sources say talks continue about players being tested prior to boarding their flights to Manitoba. And once in Winning, the plan would be for all CFL team officials to be in a virus-free bubble.

Recently, the Canadian government determined the Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t play at Rogers Centre because the pandemic had made it unsafe for players to travel between Canada and the U.S. regularly. But Miller doesn’t feel that situation applies to Americans coming to Canada to play football.

“I think that was a different scenario,” he said. “You’ve seen it with the NHL having players here so I think the NHL is a better example of what the CFL would be doing.”

If an abbreviated season is deemed a go, the expectation is the players could report to the hub by mid-August. After a one-week quarantine, training camps would then be open, paving the way for regular-season games to begin in September.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

CFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

Most Read