CFL sets August ‘target’ start date, plans 14-game season if ‘significant number of fans’ can attend games

The start of the 2021 Canadian Football League season has been delayed to August 5 with the Grey Cup moved to December 12.

Originally, the three-down league unveiled its 2021 schedule last November with training camps slated to open in May, the pre-season scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 23, while the regular season was supposed to get underway on Thursday, June 10, but that won’t happen.

“We will play CFL football in 2021,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said definitively in a statement.

“Our revised target date to start our regular season is August 5. To facilitate a 14-game season, for our players, fans and partners, we are re-scheduling the Grey Cup to December 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.”

“I say ‘target date’ because our plans are subject to the state of COVID-19 across the country. A so-called ‘third wave’ in some provinces is forcing us today to postpone the start of our regular season, which had been scheduled for June 10.”

“So, what must be in place for us to kick off on August 5? Two things. 1. The approval of public health officials across the country of our plans for protecting the health of our players, coaches, and ultimately our fans, so a 2021 season is safe. 2. Permission from governments to host a significant number of fans in the stands, in a significant number of venues at the start of the season, and in the rest of our venues soon after that, so a 2021 season is financially tenable for our clubs.”

“The CFL depends on ticket revenue more than other professional sports leagues in North America. Fans in the stands account for at least half of our revenue. Our clubs already stand to suffer substantial financial losses this year. Playing without fans in the stands would dramatically increase those losses.”

“We are prepared to be creative as well as prudent. For example, if we are unable to host fans in the East because of COVID-19, we are prepared to start play in the West, provided eastern teams can return to their home provinces, and play in front of their fans, later in the season.”

“And we have contingency plans in place, should factors beyond our control delay the start of our season beyond August 5.  The bottom line is we are optimistic we will have a season in 2021, culminating in a great Grey Cup.”

“Everyone who loves the CFL can help us and their communities. Please, when it is your turn, get vaccinated. And please follow your local public health guidelines on measures including wearing a mask and social distancing.”

“To our players, fans and partners: thank you for your patience as well as your passion for our game. Thank you all the frontline workers out there for all they’re doing for all of us. We look forward to keeping you posted on our progress and to kicking off another great season of CFL football on August 5.”

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

After the Canadian government refused to provide a $30 million interest-free loan a year ago, the board of governors voted to cancel the 2020 season. The CFL reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million last year and are set to lose millions more if any kind of season is played in 2021.

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