Ontario sport minister Lisa MacLeod wants to see the CFL back on the field in 2021.
MacLeod and the provincial government have received the league and players’ association’s return-to-play health and safety plan. The CFL and union began meetings during the second week of February with a focus on playing football this year.
“I know that they’re committed to a return, what that looks like again, if they’re going to a hub model it has been undefined at this point in time, at least in my shop,” MacLeod said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“We know early in the pandemic when we thought we might have gotten last summer in, there was speculation that there would be a hub city. If they want to play in their own stadiums, what that would entail in terms of a Canadian bubble, it’s far too early to say.”
The 46-year-old MacLeod admitted she hasn’t spoken with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie in a bit. Although, she has been in frequent contact with Ottawa Redblacks president Mark Goudie because the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group has multiple franchises under its purview.
“Every single day with COVID-19 is a different day. As much as people say it’s like doing the same thing over again, you don’t know where the health conditions are at that moment,” MacLeod said.
“We could say we’re optimistic for this to start on this date, but those dates whether it’s in hockey or the CFL have sometimes surpassed us.”
The CFL unveiled its 2021 schedule in November with the pre-season scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 23. The regular season is slated to get underway on Thursday, June 10 and the Grey Cup in Hamilton is set for Sunday, November 21 in Hamilton.
“We fully support the return of the CFL. I’ll tell you, I was looking forward as a minister getting down to Hamilton to support the Grey Cup,” MacLeod said.
“Talk about the epitome of this ministry, heritage, sport, tourism, and culture, you look at the Grey Cup — it’s historic, it’s a sport, it’s a driver for tourism, and of course the culture that comes with it with the Canadian acts that participate in the halftime show.”
McLeod makes her home in Ottawa and attended the 2017 Snow Globe Grey Cup. She’ll never forget being able to watch the CFL championship in the nation’s capital and seeing Shania Twain perform live at halftime, riding in on a dog sled. She wants the CFL to return provided it can be done in a safe environment and noted the province of Ontario is there for support.
“We’ll continue to work with the league. We’ll continue to monitor the situation. I’m really hopeful that we can work to a solution for them,” MacLeod said.
“I wish I had the crystal ball and I wish this was all over so that we wouldn’t be having this conversation and we could see our guys back on the field.”