The prospect of a 2021 CFL season received a positive boost from the province of Alberta.
Chief medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw has stated fans could be in stadiums as early as mid-summer.
In a letter addressed to stakeholders, Hinshaw addressed the timeline for audience return for “indoor and outdoor music, theatre and other performance events.” Though not explicitly mentioned, game days for the Edmonton Football Team and Calgary Stampeders would likely be asked to follow the same outline.
The relevant excerpt from the letter is as follows:
“This letter is a proposed outline of the potential timing for the return of audiences. Final allowances for total numbers will be confirmed as we approach these key milestones, noting that if there are opportunities to move these timelines up because of better than anticipated case trends and/or more aggressive progress on vaccines, that will be of utmost priority for us:
- April/Early May: No in-person fans
- Late May: 15% of fixed seating capacity to a Maximum of 100 people outdoors
- Late June: 50% of fixed seating capacity to a Maximum of 500 people outdoors and 15% of fixed seating capacity to a Maximum of 100 people indoors
- Late July: Removal of capacity restrictions
As noted, this is contingent on the state of cases and associated pressures on the public health care system as well as progress on immunizations. We will continue to work with your sector as we approach these important milestones.”
For the CFL, the key piece of information would be the full removal of attendance restrictions predicted in late July, a timeline that could see McMahon and Commonwealth Stadiums full much earlier than most predicted.
The CFL unveiled its 2021 schedule in November with the pre-season slated to begin on Sunday, May 23. The regular season is scheduled to get underway on Thursday, June 10 and the Grey Cup is currently set for Sunday, November 21 in Hamilton.
Rising case counts across the country in addition to a slow vaccine rollout have now put that in jeopardy, with a strong likelihood the season is delayed.
The league office and players’ union began meetings during the second week of February with a focus on playing football in 2021. The two sides have submitted return to play health and safety plans to various levels of government in Canada.
The CFL Players’ Association has repeatedly requested clarity regarding the start of the 2021 season, which the CFL has failed to provide. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has promised plenty of football during the current year, but there has been no commitment as to when the league might kick-off, which has created unprecedented uncertainty for players and stakeholders.
The CFL board of governors is expected to vote for the postponement of the season during a meeting Tuesday, but a new potential start date has not been publicized.
CFL leadership has long said fans in the stands, or the promise thereof, will be a requirement to getting back on the field. In Alberta, there now appears to be some semblance of a timeline for that possibility.