CFL Pass

'DISAPPOINTING': CFL spikes 2020 season after feds' loan deal rejected

Sixty-seven days after it was supposed to kick off, the Canadian Football League season has been cancelled, following a Monday vote by the CFL board of governors.

The league postponed the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but had planned to launch a six-game schedule in early October in a secure bubble environment in Winnipeg.

Public health authorities in Manitoba approved the league’s return-to-play plan and officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada were satisfied with its components.

However, it’s an expensive model, and the league was adamant that it required public money to make it happen. The Manitoba government stepped up with $2.5 million for player accommodations, meals and transportation in Winnipeg.

The league, though, said it still required a significant cash infusion from Ottawa.

The federal government responded with an offer of a short-term loan with interest and fees that the league said it could not pay.

“That kind of arrangement would hamper our recovery more than bolster it,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement released Monday, following the governors’ vote.

“On two occasions, in June and again at the beginning of August, the government reached out to us with new indications they might step up and help in a more meaningful way. But at the end of the day, the help we needed to play this year never materialized.

“This outcome after months of discussions with government officials is disappointing. But we’re focused now on the long-term future and we will continue to work with the federal and provincial governments in that context.”

Measures made necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19 meant CFL games could not be played with fans in the stands this year. Most teams derive about 35% of their revenue from in-stadium spending, and if the virus still presents a health and safety risk in the spring of 2021, the league will be in significant financial peril.

Ambrosie said months ago that a cancelled season could “quadruple” league losses, which routinely reach $10 million to $20 million annually.

“Even with additional (government) support, our owners and community-held teams would have had to endure significant financial losses to play in 2020,” Ambrosie said in the statement. “Without it, the losses would be so large that they would really hamper our ability to bounce back strongly next year and beyond.

“The most important thing is the future of our league.”


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