Saskatchewan-based media personality Rod Pedersen has some good news and plenty of bad news.
The recently vaccinated broadcaster joined The Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 in Edmonton to share that current health models could have fans back in stadiums by September or early October. While that sounds like good news for the CFL, not everything is so cheery.
“Let’s not forget half the league office was gutted and aren’t coming back. These aren’t great days in the Canadian Football League and I’m very leery of what I hear from the leaders in the CFL,” Pedersen said.
“I don’t think that you can go out on a limb right now and guarantee that there will be a season.”
Major media players and top ranking CFL executives have insisted that the league will have a 2021 season, even if it is delayed. Pedersen doesn’t see it the same way, believing the financial ruin suffered by the CFL and the evolving COVID situation makes such statements ludicrous.
“I think that they don’t know, and to throw it out there and say, ‘Oh, just trust us, we guarantee there’s a season’ — I just think that’s a fallacy. I think it’s unfair to the fans, but the damage has already been done,” Pedersen emphasized.
The league reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million due to the cancelled season in 2020 and some teams are in dire straights according to Pedersen.
“There’s some teams very low on cash — very low. I wouldn’t put the Redblacks in that category nor the Stampeders and obviously not the Argos, but these community owned teams have lost millions upon millions,” he explained.
“What’s going on in the CFL right now is there’s some teams that I have no idea how they’re keeping the lights on. There’s what’s being publicly portrayed in, ‘Hey, we had a Global Draft and 44 percent of the first round were punters.‘ And then there’s the other side where we’re not sure we’re bringing back our staff. There’s some scary stuff that people aren’t talking about.”
The answer to these financial difficulties may lie in the XFL, as the owners from both leagues have agreed to work together to identify opportunities to innovate and grow the game of football. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has stated he’s excited for the ‘unique opportunity’ the CFL and XFL ‘can potentially create together.’
The most recent incarnation of the XFL lasted just five games before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling.
Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future, which could be aided by a merger with the CFL.
The Canadian league in turn could benefit from their infusion of cash, though it might come at the expense of some of the things that make the CFL unique.
“A guy that I talked to on the phone from the States, who is a Canadian, said ratio gone. From what he hears, there won’t be one,” Pedersen speculated. “That’s just what he’s hearing, I don’t know if that’s true or not.”
Pedersen has been led to believe also likely gone is the three-down game and the 110-yard field, though no rule conversations have taken place. Additionally a shift to a spring and summer season is favoured by the XFL, begging the question why games should even be played in Canada this year.
“There’s a lot of talk about the spring and summer league starting as early as one-year from now, the next CFL. So as some have said, ‘Why even try to play this year?’ Why not turn the lights out and go full bore towards next year?” Pedersen wondered.
Some may wish to do that, namely Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Toronto Argonauts owners and apprent driving force behind XFL talks.
“Look guys, the CFL was dying as it was! The rumour is MLSE and the Argos and Alouettes don’t even want to play now. Why are you pounding a square peg into a round hole of playing with a league that is shrinking as it is?” Pedersen stressed.
Whether the CFL plays in 2021 or not may simply be window dressing. The league may already be gone.
“No matter what, we’re having a swan song season for the CFL as we know it.”