Last week it was announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that no large scale events would be happening in the province of Ontario this summer. In B.C., a recent report indicated that the CFL had not received approval from the local government for their return-to-play plan.
At the same time, the Calgary Stampede announced its plans for risk mitigation regarding COVID-19 in the province with the current worst per capita new infection rate in North America.
Given the absolute need for the CFL to not suffer from a second lost season, it’s time to consider the alternatives.
Vaccination rates are climbing nationwide and may reach the 75 percent first dose threshold sometime in June. This is the mark the federal government stated would be enough to remove restrictions within Canada, provided a further 20 percent were fully vaccinated.
This is why the CFL should be investigating and planning on moving the league to the Alberta for as long as needed in the 2021 season.
With nine teams currently in place, spreading the action to two different cities helps mitigate the stress that a single bubble location would incur. There would be no need to have eight teams find temporary housing in a single city. The largest number of teams in any one city would be five. As such, practice facilities would also be able to see well scheduled utilization without damaging the product.
With nine teams located in two cities, you could also have a traditional schedule format with games being played twice a week in each place.
McMahon Stadium currently holds just over 35,000 seats and suites. There are 24 sections with approximately 55 rows of 40 seats.
My proposed grid looks something like this (using P for paid fan and x for an empty seat):
Translating this over a fully open McMahon Stadium, this pattern would see a possible attendance of roughly 12,000 not including suites.
Move this pattern to Commonwealth and there could be as many as 20,000 fans in attendance.
Stadium officials could be assigned to washrooms and concession areas to ensure social distancing guidelines were being followed.
Winnipeg and Saskatchewan could also adopt the models, although there have been fewer signs from local governments that this could be on the horizon.
Teams would have to agree to share ticket revenue league-wide, holding games as double headers on Fridays and Saturdays — one game in each city — alternating early and late starts to make the games as accessible as possible.
The Stampede grounds often become Alberta’s “third largest city” and are typically home to over 100,000 people a day. The province is very gung-ho to go ahead, planning on selling rodeo seats, and tickets to the grandstand show in this fashion with full support of the province in early July.
Getting approval to do the same a month later, with a crowd of less than 15 percent that size, in a province that is vaccinating 60,000 people per day should be an absolute no-brainer.
The season must start on Aug. 5 as announced or do irreparable harm to the brand. The league needs to get back on TV and in front of fans.
Right now, Alberta seems like the best place to have games in any location that wouldn’t allow them.