CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

CFL has released a ‘21 schedule with the expectation of training camps opening in May

The CFL faces more challenges in its planned return for 2021 than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association continue working on their return-to-play protocols. On Wednesday night, the union said in a memo to its members that the updated plan would be available for submission by week’s end.

“Having a government-approved plan that outlines how we will keep CFLPA members, team staff, game staff and communities safe and protected from virus spread is an important and required first step we must take, alongside the CFL, in order to play a safe 2021 season,” the union said in a memo. “The plan was created in partnership with the CFL office and with advice and input from trusted medical experts who have helped other professional leagues safely return to play.

“It also includes best practices from the NFL, NBA, MLB and MLS.”

The CFL has released a ‘21 schedule with the expectation of training camps opening in May. The first exhibition game is slated for May 23.

A full 18-game regular season for all nine teams would kick off June 10 and culminate Nov. 24 with the Grey Cup game at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field.

If the season began on time, the expectation is it would do so without fans in the stands. That wouldn’t be good news for the nine franchises, which are heavily dependent upon ticket sales to generate revenue.

What’s more, the CFL reportedly lost between $60-to-$80 million by not operating in 2020. It pulled the plug on plans for an abbreviated season in Winnipeg, its tentative hub city, last August after failing to secure a $30-million, interest-free loan from Ottawa that was deemed essential in order for football to be played.

It meant the Grey Cup was not awarded for the first time since 1919.

The CFL had established health-and-safety protocols last year, presenting them to the Public Health Agency of Canada for evaluation. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, praised the league’s plan but it was never formally approved, a step that was crucial in securing the loan from Ottawa.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said last week the ‘20 protocols were being amended and tweaked for another presentation to Canadian health officials. But this time around, the league is looking at all of its teams playing games in their respective stadiums instead of just in Manitoba.

So the amended protocols must be approved by the six provinces where franchises are based — B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec — before going back to the PHAC.

“While we expect to receive feedback on the plan from governments, we believe it satisfies the expectation of a safe working environment for all CFLPA members and that it will meet the high standards and requirements of government health authorities,” the union said in its memo.

And once that’s done, the CFL would then have to secure a national interest exemption from the federal cabinet for games to be played before the completion of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination program. Ottawa has suggested that all vaccines could be delivered by late September.

“As we wait to hear back, we will continue meetings with the CFL, in both a mutually respectful and positive manner, on agreements and negotiations that are necessary to safely put CFLPA members on the playing field this season,” the memo said. “While there is still a lot of work to do over the coming weeks and months we are both hopeful and optimistic.”

Ambrosie said earlier this month the league is committed to staging a 2021 season.

“We’ve got a schedule in place and we’re committed to it,” Ambrosie said. “Our real focus is on all the planning that’s going to have to go into executing against that and also having maximum adaptability because there’s no doubt we’re going to have to make adjustments to our plan.

“We just need to be ready at a moment’s notice to make those adjustments … that’s really how we’re planning our business. We’re committed to being on the field in 2021 … we’re just keeping all of our avenues open.”

But the projected timelines would appear to make it tough for the CFL to start its season on time. However, the NHL managed to get its return-to-to play policies approved in Canada in time for the start of its current campaign, one that sees the league’s seven Canadian-based franchises playing each other exclusively in a separate division.

It’s a similar model to what the CFL proposed last year, having all nine teams in a single division rather than the traditional East-West format. The league and CFLPA are looking at what parts of the NHL’s current policy might be applicable in their health-and-safety protocols in 2021.

This season, the NHL has continually tweaked its protocols. As of Tuesday, only eight players were on the COVID list compared to a season-high 59 on Feb. 12.

But even if the CFL gets its protocols approved in time, it remains a major challenge to stage games in empty stadiums, given the staggering losses the league and its franchises suffered last year — the CFL’s television deal with TSN is not worth nearly as much as other big North American leagues.

A more plausible scenario would be football resuming later when fans could be in the stands.

And even then, the expectation is the CFL will again have to make a pitch for more government assistance to get going. Another source said the league was projected to receive more than $10 million in wage subsidy from Ottawa between March and December 2020.

That figure would’ve gone past $15 million had an abbreviated season been played. And it’s unclear what subsidies the league has received, if any, so far in 2021.

The second source also spoke on the condition of anonymity because exact figures have not been made public

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CFL

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

Just Posted

Image/ Metro Creative Connection
County of Wetaskiwin responds to Alberta Energy Regulator’s decision on Directive 067.

On April 7, 2021 the Alberta Energy Regular (AER) announced a new edition of Directive 067.

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he’d been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

Police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP respond to break and enter and theft at a Wetaskiwin church

RCMP responded to a break and enter and theft at Jesus Cares Fellowship Church.

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

Most Read