JONES: Without federal funding, CFL pulls plug on any type of season
Botched from the beginning, the Canadian Football League made it official Monday. There will be no 2020 season of any length or description.
The CFL Board of Governors, reacting to a federal government decision not to approve a $30 million interest-free-loan to the league, met Monday morning and informed the players association of the decision just before noon.
“Our league governors decided today it is in the best interests of the CFL to concentrate on the future,” said Commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a media release that followed in short order.
“Even with additional support, our owners and community-held teams would have had to endure significant financial losses to play in 2020. Without it, the losses would have been so large they would really hamper our ability to bounce back strongly next year and beyond. The most important thing is the future of our league.
“We are committed to 2021, to the future of our league and the pursuit of our vision of a bigger, stronger, more global CFL,” he said.
It’s sad in a lot of ways including all those guy-next-door pro football players, the heart and soul of the countless community engagements and endeavors involving the nine teams in the league, that will be without work for 10 more months.
It’s sad that it’ll be the first year there will be no Grey Cup since 1919, when the game wasn’t held due to a rules dispute. That was after three years the Cup was cancelled because of the First World War.
But mostly, it’s maddening.
The league didn’t just lose it’s season, it took a huge hit in terms of image and perception by fumbling and bumbling, bobbling and bungling virtually everything from beginning to end.
The league booted and butchered their misjudged and mismanaged attempts to ‘Return To Play’ all the way.
Going into the weekend there were reports of there being “a light at the end of the tunnel” in terms of being able to have a six-games-plus-playoffs season in a Winnipeg hub.
My immediate response on Twitter was that “It’s a train!”
I wasn’t trying to be funny with that old line.
I think the federal government probably did the CFL a favor by saying no to the $30 million interest-free loan request.
Yes, I think the Trudeau government has been reprehensible during this whole business in not being able to find a long-time proven institution with an incredible history of community involvement and adding to the quality of life. That the Liberals instead chose to throw millions around in grants that ended up in a lot of political and family pockets as evidenced by the WE charity fiasco won’t be forgotten soon in the heartland of the league in the prairie provinces.
But I’ve been in Edmonton examining the NHL’s ‘Return To Play’ start-to-finish Hub City coronavirus pandemic project up close and personal. To this point has been incredibly successful.
The tab on the NHL project is believed to have now soared over $70 million U.S.
By comparison, the CFL with a proposed $30 million CDN from the feds and $2.5 million from Winnipeg were proposing to test players once when they showed up and once in a while after that.
The NHL teams created modified quarantine conditions during their own training camps in their own cities before taking their ultra-sanitized charter flights to Toronto and Edmonton. There wasn’t a single positive test when they entered the bubbles and there hasn’t been one since.
The CFL teams were going to head directly to Winnipeg and hold training camps there. Half their players were going to arrive from the highly contagious hot spots in the U.S. Some would have been rookies.
Football players aren’t like hockey players who play 82 games a regular season. First of all there’s more than twice as many of them. And it’s hard to institute a curfew for a couple nights before the Grey Cup or the Super Bowl much less 24 hours a day for more than two months.
It was a recipe for disaster.
I truly believe the CFL is better off to get the multitude of things that this situation have illustrated need fixed and to come back with a better business model and start over with fans a year from now.
The league and its players have looked like a collection of clowns from start to finish on this.
It was slapstick from the beginning when Ambrosie, without the behind the scenes set-up involving connected people required, basically barged in and was perceived as asking for a grant of $150 million.
This was without involvement of the players.
While the NHL and NHLPA decided early that for this to work in hockey that they’d need to be together like never before. The CFL and CFLPA were pulling in opposite directions fighting over nickels and dimes in essential a not-for-profit league where most of the players have nowhere else to play. Even up to the final play Monday it was clear owners weren’t on the same page with each other.
The final gun was aimed at their own heads.