The Canadian Football League’s worst fear could be realized if there is no season next year.
TSN reporter Dave Naylor shared a glimpse of the anxiety being felt behind the scenes by league employees.
“When I talk to teams and people right now, their belief is if we don’t play in 2021, the league is going to get mothballed until COVID is over. That’s the fear,” Naylor said on TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver.
“When COVID is over, it’s going to be the interesting question. It may not be like turning on the light switch and bang. It may be more in stages, it could still be around in some form in 2022.”
After the league-specific financial package was denied by the federal government, the CFL cancelled its 2020 season when commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the board of governors voted not to play. There are no guarantees when the league could return to the field in the future.
“They’re not going to know the answer to how many people you can have in the stands until early spring at the earliest. And then they’re going to have to make a decision — this is what it’s going to cost us to play, and do they share that equally?” Naylor questioned.
“Is every team on board with doing this? And how do the publicly-owned teams get through it? Because in their case you don’t even have an owner that can say, ‘I’m worth $700 million, so I’m going to stroke a cheque for $15 million.'”
The league lost its number one source of revenue – fans in the stands – when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented large gatherings. Unlike major leagues like the NHL, NBA, MLB or NFL that count on television and streaming to provide a major share of revenue, the CFL depends heavily on its live gate.
“If it’s no fans in the stands at all, anywhere in the country, that’s going to be a very expensive proposition for the CFL. I don’t think that’s financial feasible for anybody to try to pull off if you can’t have fans in the stands,” Naylor said.
“If a CFL owner is going to lose $15 million playing a season, that’s more than a lot of franchises are worth. As a straight business proposition, that doesn’t make any sense. You may see something more akin to the eight-week, six-week hub city season as opposed to trying to play in nine venues across the country for 21 weeks.”
Naylor believes a lot of things are being spitballed, but no one particular plan has been pinned to the wall.