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

Vancouver Police Department. (Black Press Media files)
Abbotsford man named as victim of fatal weekend shooting in Vancouver

Harpreet Dhaliwal, 31, killed outside of Cardero’s restaurant in Coal Harbour

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom is offering free school tours of The Pencil Patch learning garden in Abbotsford in April, May and June.
Agriculture in the Classroom offers free school tours at learning garden

The Pencil Patch in Abbotsford provides 15 outdoor learning stations

Alisa Gusakova was one of two Grade 12 Chilliwack students who received a $5,000 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarship earlier this year. Now, a fundraiser has been created for the teen after her mother was killed. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fundraiser launched for daughter of Chilliwack woman killed

Money raised will help Chilliwack teen attend UFV to earn business degree

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Large gatherings of people at Kitsilano Beach on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Walter Wells/Twitter)
Vancouver police to reassess enforcement of COVID rules at outdoor parties: mayor

No tickets were given out for a large outdoor party at Kitsilano Beach

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

Most Read