Edmonton Football Team absorbed 2020 losses without touching $13 million heritage trust fund

The CFL is reportedly in dire financial straits across the board, but the situation is not yet bad enough for one of the league’s community owned teams to reach into their emergency trust fund.

While the league collectively lost somewhere between $60 and $80 million during the cancelled 2020 season, the Edmonton Football Team absorbed their share without drawing a dime from their heritage trust fund of more than $13 million or the $4 million made from hosting the 106th Grey Cup.

“We’ve done a really good job of clamping down on our expenses. Unfortunately, that came at the cost of letting go a number of employees. We made our cuts deep because we’re a community-owned team and when that money is gone, it’s gone,” EE Football Team president and CEO Chris Presson told long-time columnist Terry Jones.

“We haven’t had to draw on the trust fund yet. We’ve lost plenty of money, but not having to draw on the trust fund yet has been a positive thing.”

As one of the CFL’s three community owned franchises, Edmonton’s reluctance to dip into the emergency savings account is due to the absence of a billionaire owner to bankroll the team should money run out. Instead, the cash flow keeping the team afloat came directly from fans.

“We used the money we had from the purchase of season seats. In terms of people who kept their season ticket money on file, it’s right about 75-80 per cent and almost all of the rest told us while they needed the money now, they’d definitely be coming back,” Presson said.

Frugality came at a cost, namely the amount of people employed by the club. The team office was virtually gutted and iconic equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak was unceremoniously shown the door after 49 years. 

Now that the CFL has announced a projected start date for the delayed 2021 season, some of those roles will be filled again, including former assistant Ben Rosneau taking over for Mandrusiak.

“We went down to the core. We reduced our staff by about 65 per cent. Now that we have a really good target date, we’ll start to really ramp that up,” Presson explained, adding an important caveat.

“But when we come back, we won’t be at nearly the level of staffing that we once were.”

With a new season set to begin August 5th, teams are expecting to lose more money playing this year than sitting out the last.

That may still require Edmonton to dip into its emergency reserves, but fans can rest a little easier knowing the money is still there if needed.

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