Toronto Argos’ president Bill Manning: ‘It would be prudent’ for CFL to discuss hub city concept

Toronto Argonauts president Bill Manning feels the hub city concept along with all other ideas need to be at least considered by the CFL.

Hub cities are hot topics among the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS as North American pro sports leagues try to figure out the best way to possibly hold games amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I haven’t heard many details on it. That one I don’t know how much steam that has frankly because it hasn’t come to the presidents yet. It would be prudent of the league to have those discussions if something like that can work,” Manning said on TSN 1050 radio in Toronto.

“That’s the biggest issue at the end of the day, can it work? Is it feasible? Most importantly, is it safe? What I do know is Randy [Ambrosie] is trying to look at all options on how we can play games this year — that’s still the goal. He did say it may not happen either. Like everything you gotta explore all options.”

The CFL regular season was scheduled to kick-off on Thursday, June 11, but Ambrosie has stated the schedule won’t start before the beginning of July. And it will be later as various cities have banned large gatherings throughout the summer until September. However, there is currently no drop dead date for when a decision needs to be made on having any type of season at all. 

“It was discussed early on, ‘Hey when is going to be our deadline?’ You’re learning more and seeing how things may be. Let’s continue to see how this evolves,” Manning said.

“What we have done is we’ve put here’s the latest we think we can play and still get half a season in. That’s how we’ve backed it up. Right now there’s not like, ‘Hey, this is our deadline.'”

Even if a shortened season happens, the CFL will still take an economic hit. Which is why Ambrosie made a plea to the federal government for up to $150 million in COVID-19 financial aid and revealed collectively CFL teams lose between $10 and $20 million dollars a season

“It varies across the league, the teams in prairies do quite well and then there’s the teams in the major markets, financially, aren’t there yet. But you have this new owner in Montreal, an amazing owner who has come in who really wants to invest in that team and build up the Alouettes. We at MLSE have taken over the Argos and we’ve been in investment mode the last few years, trying to build that brand,” Manning said.

“We just gotta try to get a winning football team right now. We’re building it and have done much better financially the last couple years, but we still have a ways to go. Ourselves, the new owner in Montreal and B.C. is the other big market team that this is very difficult for with the CFL relying on the fans.”

Ambrosie asked the feds for $30 million in working capital to maintain operations through the crisis and estimated the league could need as much as an additional $120 million over the next two years — if the most negative scenarios, all of them, come true. If there is no season in 2020, it’s estimated the CFL could lose approximately $100 million.

“It’s a league that has so much history and has had so much turmoil through the years, but a lot of bright spots as well,” Manning said. “With the ownership we have here, there is certainly a willingness to try to push forward, but it’s difficult how this league operates and really relies on those games.”

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