The Canadian Football League is now hoping to stage a “shortened but meaningful season” from September amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, while the traditional Grey Cup Festival format has been changed.
The CFL has been particularly hit by the coronavirus crisis due to the extended shutdown of public events throughout Canada.
The league has requested up to C$150m in financial assistance from the federal government to cope with the devastating effects of the ongoing health crisis. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has also admitted that the league’s future is “very much in jeopardy.”
The start of the 2020 season was already pushed back from June to July and now it has been postponed to September at the earliest. A cancelled season remains a possibility, however.
“It now appears the earliest the CFL might return to play – for a shortened but meaningful season – is this September,” Ambrosie said in a statement.
“Of course, a final decision on whether that will indeed happen will depend on what governments tell us is safe for our players and fans. But barring some huge development, like a vaccine for Covid-19, it now seems clear we can rule out playing games this summer. Please note that we are not announcing or promising a return this fall. We are just letting our fans know this remains one of the remaining possible scenarios for 2020. A cancelled season is also possible. Again, it’s too soon to make a sure call at this point,” he said.
Assuming that the league does come back, the Grey Cup will no longer be played at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, as was originally planned. Instead, the team in the showpiece event which has the superior regular-season record will play host to the game. The surrounding festivities have also been scrapped.
“This gives all nine CFL teams a shot at hosting the Grey Cup in this unprecedented year,” the statement added.
To make up for this, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have now been awarded the 2022 Grey Cup, with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats continuing to host the 2021 event as planned.
Elsewhere, the Touchdown Atlantic game in Halifax, which had been scheduled for July 25, has been called off.
“We know a lot must fall into place for us to play games this September. I’ve said myself it doesn’t appear to be our most likely scenario. But there is one other thing we’ve learned in this pandemic: a lot can change in 100 days,” Ambrosie said.
“Whatever comes, we will follow the advice of governments and public health officials. There is only one thing we want more than the return of CFL football – and that is a safe and healthy Canada,” he said.