On-time start for the 2021 CFL season ‘still very much on the table’: report

So you’re saying there’s a chance.

According to TSN reporter Farhan Lalji the 2021 Canadian Football League season could kick-off as currently scheduled. The league is slated to open the season this year in Winnipeg with a 2019 Grey Cup rematch between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 10.

Hearing from sources that an “on-time” start to the CFL season is still very much on the table. Within that, they have built in flexibility so that they can still have as full a season as possible. Modelling is in place for how much lead time is needed for a variety of start dates.

No doubt there are still a lot of COVID-related factors that will decide this: How much work needs to be done with the RTP proposal? When will govt allow partial attendance? The CFL is closely watching the situation in AB. Is there a chance for to start with no fans?

The biggest challenge is the league can’t guess & government won’t guess. CFL can’t assume they can afford to start games in June because “surely” fans will be allowed into stadiums in July.

The league and CFL Players’ Association began meetings during the second week of February with a focus on putting football on the field this year. The two sides have submitted return to play health and safety plans to various levels of government in Canada.

The ability to have fans in the stands is a requirement for the league to play in 2021. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has publicly maintained his commitment to a full 18-game CFL season.

A heavily criticized federal vaccine roll out, marred by a shortage of doses, placed the government timeline at 14.5 million shots delivered nationwide by the end of June. That has led to rampant speculation that the CFL season would be both shortened and postponed until their primary source of revenue returned.

Now the recent approval of both the Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccines are providing a glimmer of hope for the league, with British Columbia’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry remarking that a ‘post-pandemic world’ could arrive by the summer. 

A big reason for the jump in vaccination timelines is the recent decision by the government to delay the second dose of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine up to four months. While the second shot provides longevity of protection, studies from the UK and Israel show that the initial dose provide much of the required immunity.

The Edmonton Oilers have already become the first NHL team to request government approval for fans at their indoor arena as early as April and the league is watching closely to see what precedent might be set.

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