CFL official with 2021 schedule in hand lacks confidence league will play: ‘I guess we will see’

There is a growing lack of confidence around the CFL that the league will put football on the field in 2021.

Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani has dug into the situation and provided a reason why that’s the case.

“Even somebody who has the entire schedule in front of them, they’re message to me was: ‘But I guess we will see,'” Madani said on 620 CKRM’s The SportsCage.

“Even the people who have the info, who have the rules to Fight Club, who are making the rules to Fight Club, still don’t know whether or not the key to get into Fight Club is going to work.”

The CFL has delayed the start date with a 14-game schedule targeted to kick-off on August 5, culminating in a currently planned December 12 Grey Cup. For the timeline to be met, the league requires ‘a significant number of fans’ to be allowed in stadiums by municipal, provincial, and federal governments.

“By hook or by crook will they play? Well, they will if they let people in the building, but if they don’t let people in the buildings in Ontario for the entire season, that changes the conversation altogether,” Madani said.

“When they were putting this plan together, nobody saw Manitoba going into shutdown, nobody saw Ontario remaining in lockdown order into June. I think this is going to be hit the delay button a little bit on this a little bit longer and see where you’re at. I think that’s where everything is right now.”

Last year, the league office and players’ association had constructed a plan to play in a hub city in Winnipeg. However, after the feds declined to give the CFL a $30 million interest-free loan, it was ultimately decided by the board of governors the 2020 season would be cancelled. There were owners who wanted to play and others against it.

“The indication I’ve got is that there is some appetite to play. I don’t think it’s universal, I don’t think it’s unanimous — Randy Ambrosie can say whatever he wants, it has not been unanimous through all of this,” Madani said.

“Maybe they’re going to try and keep this thing going because they realize they need something to happen for the future, but as of now, I think they want to play. Can that change? Of course it can. It’s going to all be contingent on what happens with the virus.”

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 and are working to finalize the protocols with six provinces before getting the final stamp from the nation’s capital.

“I still think we’re looking at a scenario — and I believed this from the jump — that it’s in and around Labour Day. I think so right now, but it’s COVID, we’ve all thought a lot of things,” Madani said.

“I can see this being kicked down the road an extra few weeks. Maybe you end up playing a 12-game schedule, or an 11-game schedule — this is me just speculating, it’s not sourced.”

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