The Canadian Football League has provisionally selected Winnipeg to be its hub city for a planned shortened 2020 season in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Winnipeg was chosen over rival bids from Calgary and Saskatchewan. The move is dependent on the final approval of public health and safety officials in the Manitoba province.
In order to play a planned 60-game, 15-week season, which is due to begin in September, the CFL says it requires an amended collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players’ Association, C$42.5m ($32m) in federal government support, as well as approval from public health authorities.
The CFL has set a July 23 deadline to secure a new CBA, although an extension seems likely.
Significant funding is needed to make this a reality for the cash-strapped CFL. In addition to player and staff salaries, up to 900 players and personnel from the league’s nine teams will need to be housed in hotels.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers president Wade Miller has said there will be no CFL season without federal funding. Discussions remain ongoing between the league and government.
“We won’t have a 2020 CFL season, quite frankly. The CFL’s a gate-driven league. We need our fans in the stands watching games and as a league, it’s just not sustainable for us to play,” Miller said.
There also appears some concern in Manitoba over the fact that a number of CFL players will be traveling to Canada from the United States, where the coronavirus crisis has spiked in many states recently.
The National Hockey League, however, received Canadian federal government approval for its resumption-of-play plan based in Toronto and Edmonton and is bringing in players around the world into Canada.
Earlier this week, the Edmonton-based CFL team dropped its Eskimos nickname following a review of the moniker.
In a statement, the team announced that some fans have become “increasingly uncomfortable” with the moniker, which is considered by many a derogatory, colonial-era term for Inuits, a group of people who are indigenous to Greenland, Alaska, and Northern Canada.
The club will now undertake a comprehensive engagement process on a new name, which will include research and engagement with season-ticket holders, casual ticket purchasers, and commercial partners.
In the meantime, the club will use the names “EE Football Team” and “Edmonton Football Team.”