CFL Pass

Heritage Minister Guilbeault non-commital about financial assistance for CFL

OTTAWA—It seems the CFL shouldn’t be holding its breath for much-needed financial assistance from the Canadian government.

Earlier this month, the CFL submitted a revised financial request to Ottawa for roughly $42.5 million in aid. In April, it asked the federal government for up to $150 million in assistance in the event of a cancelled 2020 season due the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon-Grasswood) asked Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault if the government assistance was forthcoming for the CFL. Guilbeault didn’t come out and say no directly, but stopped well short of guaranteeing the financial aid.

“We understand that for many Canadians professional sport is a facet of their daily life and we certainly respect that,” he said. “Through Sport Canada, our government funds amateur and youth programs across the country.

“Sport Canada does not provide funding for profit-independent leagues or those outside of Football Canada’s mandate. We encourage organizations in need of assistance to talk to their financial institution and to see what options are available to them.”

That prompted Waugh, a former sports journalist, to quip: “So I take it then, Mr. chair, the answer would be no to the Canadian Football League?”

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association continue to negotiate amendments to their collective bargaining agreement that would allow for a shortened season. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest an abbreviated campaign would begin is September but that a cancelled season also remains possible.

On Tuesday, the CFL announced Winnipeg would be its hub city if a 2020 season were to be held. While that step, along with an amended CBA, would help ensure a return to football in September, the harsh reality is government assistance is critical to the league staging an abbreviated season.

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