On Monday, the Canadian Football League canceled their 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the first year the Grey Cup will not be awarded since 1919.
The league, consisting of nine teams, was originally hopeful in hosting a shortened season in Winnipeg, Manitoba but this big move proves otherwise.
The league’s Commissioner Randy Ambrosie emphasized the decision being in the best interest of the league as a whole. Ambrosie said they are committed to returning to play in 2021 and will continue pursuing their “vision of a bigger, stronger, more global CFL.”
Canadian Government Not On Their Side
Unlike other major sports leagues in North America, the Canadian Football League does not have a promising television contract nor strong broadcasting relationships. Because of this, much of their success is achieved through fans attending games and during a pandemic, that is a difficult feat.
The Canadian Football League requested an interest-free loan of $23.7 million on August 3 in order to stage a shortened version of a 2020 campaign. Unfortunately, the league was unable to attain the appropriate funding from the federal government.
Reportedly, the league was suggested to pursue a commercial loan by the federal government. This would be partially supported by Ottawa.
Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, claims the government attempted to work with the Canadian Football League. This helped the league manage emergency response programs that are available across Canada to businesses.
Guilbeault also said that although the Canadian Football League benefited from several of these programs, CFL board members ultimately decided not to pursue normal play this upcoming season.
According to the CFL commissioner, the league lost over $15 million last season.
In order to proceed with the upcoming season, the league would have needed approval from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Last Friday, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo claimed he was enthusiastic about the league’s plan for the season but could not provide an accurate timeline for a final decision and therefore, could not meet the team’s demands.
Plans Quickly Foiled
Last month, the Canadian Football League had announced they chose Winnipeg as a hub city for regular season play. No fans were supposed to attend.
These terms were contingent on the CFL securing funding from the federal government as well as having health and safety protocols approved.
Another issue the league faced was mending rocky relationships with the CFL Players’ Association. Politicians nationwide had a lot to say about the CFL not inviting their players to be involved in their initial financial assistance request.
Back in March, the Canadian Football League was hopeful they would return to normal play before training camps set to open in May began. Unfortunately, circumstances surrounding COVID-19 worsened quickly and the CFL reacted by postponing camps and ultimately, the start of the regular season schedule for June.
Later in the summer, the Canadian Football League canceled their championship Grey Cup game scheduled to take place in Regina in November. The CFL decided their model would not be sustainable without fans in the stands.