‘That’s worrisome’: Edmonton colour analyst Dave Campbell questions attitude of CFL leadership as 2021 doubts rise

Photo courtesy: Dave Campbell

Dave Campbell may be a more connected man than most in CFL circles but when it comes to the rising uncertainty surrounding a 2021 season, he’s just as confused and concerned as the rest of us.

“When you’re asking teams to spend to the cap floor, when you’re cutting $500,000 to $600,000 in my math — that’s about what a $4 million haircut across the board, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less — and the offices and the staff around the CFL have been trimmed so severely, and then you have teams that are actually signing players and handing out signing bonuses. I mean, we’re positioning ourselves to try and play here,” Campbell explained on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“Then just to have a suggestion that it may not happen now because of the the fans in the stands issue, which I understand is an issue, but…”

Those rumours have begun to swirl with COVID cases on the rise, another lockdown in force and the all important fans in the stand seeming increasingly unlikely.

The CFL has already received return to play approval from four provinces, but stadium attendance is not yet being considered. A proposed 20% pay cut for players for any game played without fans may help alleviate some of that pain but it has not been well-received.

That leaves the gate-driven league without a revenue stream, prompting conversations with the wealthy XFL. TSN insider Dave Naylor has consistently stated that the league owners have expressed no willingness to play without fans, earning some criticism from fans for toeing the company line. Campbell sees it differently.

“What concerns me is not necessarily Dave’s reporting at all. Dave hears that from someone, right?” Campbell clarified.

“He hears it from someone that’s telling him that and if that’s what the attitude or the sentiment is with some within the league, that’s worrisome.”

Few tasks are more complex than sorting out the opinions of CFL leadership however and the 630CHED broadcaster know the internal struggle behind closed doors may well be the cause of this negativity.

“You know and I know that this is a tricky league because, yes, you have only nine teams, but you have nine agendas,” Campbell acknowledged.

“You have three teams that are community owned, the Edmonton Football Team, the Bombers, the Riders. You have three teams that are owned by a group, the Calgary Stampeders with the Flames, OSEG with the Redblacks and MLSE, who is stirring the whole thing in my opinion in Toronto. Then you have single ownership in the other markets, so you have nine agendas and three different ownership structures.”

What remains clear is that the CFL must play this year and some teams have noted the possibility of some games played in empty venues, most notably B.C. Lions president Rick Lelacheur.

Other team presidents have all but guaranteed a season, but what that look likes remains up for debate.

“We know here on the prairies, we want to play but does everyone else wants to play under the current conditions? We have to find out,” Campbell asked.

“I still believe we’re going to have a season. It’s a question of when, instead of if we have a season, but that’s hard to navigate too and I don’t envy the league’s position.”