When CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie broke his silence late last week to say the league was going ‘full throttle’ on plans for a full 18-game season in 2021, many fans were overjoyed by the optimism.
Sportsnet’s Arash Madani had a distinctly different reaction.
“It made me laugh. It’s nonsense. That’s not happening,” Madani snorted when asked about the commissioner’s recent media blitz on the SportsCage with Derek Taylor.
“They’re not playing 18 games. They’re not going ‘full throttle.’ They are trying to figure it out. There are people in the league who truly believe that not all nine teams are fully on board playing because of the uncertainty with fans and because of the economics right now.”
Madani’s assessment may be harsh, but it’s not dissimilar from the views of others prominent CFL media members who have suggested a full CFL season is impossible without fans in the stands.
The CFL unveiled its 2021 schedule back in November, with the pre-season is scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 23 and the regular season is slated to get underway on Thursday, June 10, but that may be too early for meaningful fan attendance due to Canada’s slow vaccination rollout.
A shortened season beginning around Labour Day seems like a more manageable alternative, but Ambrosie and other league power players have remained bullish on their original plan. Madani dismisses that as ridiculous.
“I can tell you this, here in Ontario for instance, any outdoor event, festival, whatever, yesterday the news came down that in the city of Toronto until July 1, all of those are now prohibited,” Madani said.
“I would love to find out, Randy, how you are going ‘full throttle’ with a season opener in Toronto when you can’t even have people gather outdoors.”
That flawed insistence on a on-time start is far from Madani’s only bone to pick with Ambrosie’s recent comments.
“Ambrosie saying, ‘We’ve done more for our business model now than anybody has in the last 50 years’? Come on now! What have you done?” Madani asked mockingly.
As for the CFL’s model for 2021, that has been quite clear. While they clung to the idea of a Winnipeg bubble until their dying breath in 2020, the plan is to play out of home stadiums this season and the idea of centralization ‘has not even been broached’ according to Madani.
The league seems convinced of a change in government policy that will allow them the return of attendance revenue, mirroring the full stadiums south of the border. Anyone holding out hope for that is dreaming in Madani’s eyes.
“You cannot compare Canada and the US. From a mindset standpoint, from a priority standpoint, from a what matters standpoint,” he said, noting the Blue Jays and Raptors were sent packing stateside and NHL arenas remain empty.
“In America, their priorities are football and guns, yeehaw God bless ’em. Thankfully, we are not that. Thankfully, we at least have a little bit more perspective in what we do.”
While that is great for the average citizen, it remains a massive hurdle for the CFL and Madani has a succinct recap of what’s going on.
“Full throttle? No. New business model? No. Working towards 2021? That is definitely happening, that is in the mix,” he explained.
“How they are going to go about it, not knowing what they are going to be able to do in terms of total attendance, in terms of what provincial quarantines may or may not be, what federal quarantines may or may not be, all of that still remains to be seen.”