Toronto ban on city-run public events until July could have major sports impact

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The City of Toronto potentially faces an extended sports shutdown after mayor John Tory announced the cancellation of all major city-run events through June 30 amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The events include festivals, conferences and cultural programs, and all city permits for major mass participation events organized by external groups at civic centers and squares, parks, public spaces (including road closures), city-operated museums, and cultural centers.

The move specifically does not order the shutdown of professional sporting events or require them to be held behind closed doors. Don Peat, a spokesman for Tory, said the move technically applies to events requiring city permits such as parades and festivals, but not sporting events.

However, the statement also added: “The City’s decision provides clear direction to event organizers to enable them to make sound decisions in support of public health efforts and their business needs, access insurance, support impacted employees and manage sponsors.”

Ontario has an indefinite province-wide ban of gatherings of more than five people, which does apply to professional sporting events. There is also an international travel ban in place, prohibiting anyone deemed non-essential from entering Canada.

As a result, it is difficult to envision pro sports resuming in the immediate future in the country’s largest city.

Toronto has a number of professional sports teams including: the Toronto Blue Jays (Major League Baseball), Toronto FC (Major League Soccer), Toronto Maple Leafs (National Hockey League), Toronto Raptors (National Basketball Association), Toronto Argonauts (Canadian Football League), Toronto Arrows (Major League Rugby) and Toronto Wolfpack (Super League), among others.

The vast majority of United States-based professional leagues are on an indefinite absence due to the ongoing health crisis. But it is believed they had hoped to resume activity before July, if possible.