‘Backup plans to back up our backup plans’: Randy Ambrosie sets mid-June deadline for final CFL season decision

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie is committed to playing football in 2021, but even he admits the league’s current schedule for a delayed season isn’t set in stone.

On Wednesday, Ambrosie announced the postponement of the 2021 campaign previously scheduled to begin June 10, moving the new start date to August 5 and culminating with the Grey Cup on December 12.

The rising COVID-19 third wave prompted the decision to delay, but there is no guarantee the conditions will be markedly better come August. That means that final decision on whether to go forward with the plan must be made weeks in advance, as Ambrosie admitted in a Q&A with SportsNet’s Donnovan Bennett.

“We’re really looking at the middle of June — the exact date we haven’t landed on today. But we are focused on having a decision matrix completely populated with everything that we can possibly want to know … from public health authorities by the middle of June, and then we’ll be in a position in collaboration and conversations with the players and all of our major stakeholders to make a decision.”

Return to play must be approved at both the provincial and federal level by that point, but more importantly a “significant” number of fans must be allowed in stadiums in Week One, a number estimated to be around 25% capacity.

Those decisions are out of the CFL’s hands, but Ambrosie insists the league is prepared for all outcomes.

“We obviously need some cooperation from the COVID crisis. We need help from public health officials who have been really thoughtful with us in our interactions. But we are building backup plans, and backup plans to back up our backup plans, and even a few plans to back up [those] backup plans.”

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.

That has led to speculation that not all nine CFL teams are pushing to play in the current financial climate, with most fingers pointed at the MLSE-led Toronto Argonauts. According to the commissioner, those allegations are unfounded.

“My thoughts are that that’s just not true. It’s one of the reasons why it’s good not to listen to rumours.”

Take it straight from the horse’s mouth, everyone in the CFL wants to play this year in any way they possibly can.

It just won’t be until June that we know for sure what that will look like.

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