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

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attend an apartment fire on the morning of April 11 in a building at 521 Fulton Str. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Sunday morning fire rouses tenants

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attended an apartment fire at 521 Fulton St.

Bears are waking up hungry and starting to forage, Conservation Officer Service said on April 9. Prince Residents are advised to keep garbage in sealed containers to lessen bear attraction. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Keep bears wild – they are not teddy bears

Conservation Officer Service warns bears are waking up hungry

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Most Read