Well, here we go again.
As expected, the CFL announced on Wednesday that the 2021 season won’t be starting on time given the current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
What’s different this time around is the league has at least given us a glimpse into what they are planning. If all goes well, they hope to start the season on August 5 and push the Grey Cup into December with a 14-game schedule.
“I think what we wanted to do today was announce a firm commitment to playing but being realistic what those conditions are,” said Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds.
“We are very, very committed to finding a way (to play in 2021). We’ve announced a target date. I can tell you we have contingency plans and we have backup plans.”
It goes without saying at this point that the biggest stumbling blocking at getting back to playing three-down football is getting at least some fans in the stands.
In the CFL’s statement about the delayed start to the season, they suggested the league would return to play with a “significant” number of fans in the stands.
At this point, Reynolds wouldn’t put a percentage on what the Riders would anticipate in order to start playing again.
“Obviously our goal is to host as many fans as possible. Having said that, it will be dictated by the health guidelines,” he said.
“We haven’t set a firm percentage. We know what certain restrictions will get you in terms of the percentage of fans that can attend games, but we haven’t set a threshold.”
Even though Reynolds says the Riders will lose money in 2021 even if they play in front of smaller crowds, he doesn’t feel missing another season would be the end of the CFL as we know it. He knows it’s important they play games this year to stay relevant in the news cycle.
“It won’t solve our financial issues, in fact, with reduced capacities, it could create additional issues. But, for the sustainability of the franchise, for the brand, for continued fan engagement, it’s vitally important,” he said.
“I think we will find a way to play. I’ve never been so certain of that than I am today.”
Whether fans in the stands will be allowed in Eastern Canada is also another issue — one the league has had conversations about.
Reynolds suggested the Riders would be open to hosting another team should the situation arise but he acknowledged they have to discuss those plans with the City of Regina as well, considering they own Mosaic Stadium.
The good news for Rider Nation is Reynolds did confirm that the team’s return-to-play plan has been approved by the province. That covers the day-to-day operations of the team and playing games at Mosaic Stadium.
At this point, the plan to re-open the stadium to fans, media, and stakeholders alike remains a work in progress.
If fans want to return to Mosaic Stadium this year, Reynolds said they can play a role in getting the team back on the field in 2021.
“The best way for our fans to support getting back at Mosaic will be to get vaccinated when it’s their turn.”
At this point, the team hasn’t considered a “vaccine passport” for fans to enter the stadium.