The Great Unknown: Riders’ president Craig Reynolds uncertain how sports could look post COVID-19

Screenshot courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

As the world continues to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — more people are starting to wonder what the world will look like on the other side of this, whenever that may be.

We’ve all (hopefully) been physical distancing for a few weeks and those measures aren’t going be relaxed any time soon.

Eventually, the world will settle into a new normal. It won’t be like the world we knew before the coronavirus.

What will that new normal look like for the world of sports? A world that generally has meant large gatherings.

“That’s the million-dollar question that nobody has the answer to,” said Saskatchewan Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds.

“People may be reluctant to gather in large crowds (and) sit right next to folks. (They might be) sort of used to the social distancing. The other school of thought (is) where people will be craving to go out and be together and celebrate some sense of normalcy”

For the Reynolds and the Riders, they believe they can be a part of the new normal given their prevalence in the province.

“So much of that (normalcy) is around the Roughriders and around game day.”

For the time being, Reynolds said the team is preparing the best they can for whatever season this may look like. They’re currently working on the premise of playing at least nine regular-season home games this year and will adjust accordingly when the time comes.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie is still hoping to get a full 18-game regular season in but that seems like a stretch at this point. The league recently announced that the regular season won’t start before July 1. They had also previously postponed the start of training camps. 

How many games will be played this season, if any at all is the big question facing the league at the moment. The league could play as few as eight games according to Dan Barnes of Postmedia.

“What that number is we haven’t landed on but I think there is a sense that there is a minimum number of games the league needs to get in,” said Reynolds.

Even for the financially-strong Roughriders, every game lost will be a significant loss. According to their 2018 financial report, the team generated $17 million in ticket sales. The 2019 sales aren’t out yet but Reynolds did say it was roughly the same. So, that’s around $1.8 million per game.

Take away one gate in 2018 and the Riders don’t turn a profit. So far, the Riders haven’t let go of any staff members as the team tries to do right by them. As Reynolds noted, there is currently much bigger fish to fry.

“The most important thing in all of this is the health and safety of Canadians. There is a bit of perspective required,” said Reynolds.

“There’s much bigger things in play than sports and entertainment. We need to think about the health and safety of all Canadians.”

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.