Lions owner David Braley believes CFL can’t play in 2020 without fans in stands at home stadiums

B.C. Lions owner David Braley has made his stance on a potential CFL season in 2020 clear.

If the three-down league is going to play in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Braley wants his franchise’s home games in Vancouver. TSN reporter Rick Dhaliwal had a conversation with the longtime CFL owner and delivered his viewpoint.

“They need fans in the stands, even 5,000 at $50 gives them some revenue. You get some revenue from television and all of a sudden you’re not losing $10 to $20 million, but maybe you only lose, two, three, four million. David is insistent, if there are no fans allowed, the CFL is not going to be a go,” Dhaliwal said on TSN radio 1040.

“Look, the CFL can’t do this, can’t do it without fans. They just cannot do it without fans. Braley wants an eight-game schedule starting in September. He wants four games in BC Place. They’ve done social distancing in BC Place, you can get 2,500 in the lower bowl, you can get 2,500 in the upper bowl. Now, BC Place is not totally 150 percent negative to that idea, but they’re saying no games in June or July.”

The CFL regular season was scheduled to kick-off on Thursday, June 11, but commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest the league might return to play is September for a shortened season. Of course, the final decision on whether that indeed happens depends on what government and health officials deem safe for players and fans.

“David is 100 percent, he insists, with fans we can’t do it. He doesn’t like the hub city idea. Who is going to pay for 45 player salaries? Whose pocket does that come out of if there’s no revenue from the gate? That comes out of his pocket,” Dhaliwal said.

Braley, the Burlington, Ontario resident has owned the Lions for 23 years, purchasing the franchise in 1997. During his time as owner, B.C. has won three Grey Cups in 2000, 2006 and 2011. The Leos did not contend in 2019 as the only team to miss the playoffs in the West Division. Braley was CFL commissioner for one season in 2002, served as the chair of the league’s board of directors and inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

“He’s already lost millions since the pandemic started. He’s paying people basically, essentially that nobody is doing anything, but he’s still paying,” Dhaliwal said. “They gotta get going by the end of this month. He continues to insist, if there is no CFL this season, the league will probably fold.”