Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie is in full coronavirus contingency planning mode.
CFL training camps have been postponed indefinitely and the only known certainty is the uncertainty regarding COVID-19. Ambrosie and the league office are figuring out how much lead time there would need to be for starting the 2020 season.
“That’s something we’re modelling right now. A whole decision-making model around how many days notice would we have to give the players, how much time would it take to prepare for camps, there’s work being done across the entire football operations spectrum,” Ambrosie told TSN reporter Dave Naylor.
“Now that we’ve postponed training camp we’ll start talking to the players about how they see this rolling out — if and when we’re given the green light to go — and we’ll make sure we’ve got a model.”
Because the CFL isn’t in-season it’s hard for Ambrosie to discern how much of an affect the coronavirus could have on the business of the league. But he did admit the crisis will negatively impact the numbers just like it has for others. In the ticket-driven league, Ambrosie doesn’t want to have games without bums in seats.
“Right now we’re not thinking about that. We think our games are best done when you’ve got a rocking, full stadium of fans and we think that’s best for our fans and for the game,” Ambrosie said.
“Two weeks ago things that we wouldn’t have considered, we all of a sudden are considering them. Everything is changing in front of our eyes. Right now we’re not thinking about that, but I’ve learned to keep an open mind. As time marches on we may have to consider different options.”
Exploring different iterations of a how a CFL schedule would happen is front and centre for the league. Shorter training camps, cutting out pre-season games and eliminating bye weeks are among the possibilities for condensing the timeline in order to play as many meaningful games as possible.
“I don’t think the idea of shortened training camps is off the table, at this point for sure. But we’re going to have to consider everything as we move forward,” Ambrosie said.
“All of those things are part of the matrix that we’re working on. We’re going to work with the PA on these issues, talking with our coaches and football operations partners — everyone will be included in discussions around how this might work.”
Players around the league are wondering how a shortened season could affect their pay cheques. The coronavirus pandemic has created uncertainty for the CFL and its athletes.
“We haven’t really talked about that at all. We have not talked about economic models and what-if scenarios. Certainly we’ll talk to the players about what the economic model of being able to return would look like,” Ambrosie said.
Regular season kick-off is currently scheduled for June 11 with the Grey Cup November 22 in Regina. The thought of going without a season hasn’t even entered the mind of the commish.
“We’re using the phrase pragmatic optimists. I’m a very optimistic guy, so I’m not allowing my mind to go there at present,” Ambrosie said.
“I’m hoping that if we all do our part, do this social distancing, wash our hands until our hands are raw, and really help the healthcare industry, the doctors and nurses. If we all do our part that we can get on top of this virus and get back to playing football.”