B.C. premier John Horgan wants CFL to ‘push’ 2021 season start date ‘further into August’

Photo courtesy: Government of British Columbia

British Columbia premier John Horgan wants CFL football on the field in 2021, but the COVID-19 data — not dates — will guide his province’s decision-making.

B.C. unveiled a four-step restart plan Tuesday afternoon focused on protecting people and safely getting life back to normal on the West Coast. The criteria for moving through the steps are vaccinations rates — 60, 65, and 70 percent of adults 18 or older receiving one dose — along with stable case counts and coronavirus hospitalizations.

Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry have been in communication with the B.C. Lions regarding the potential for the franchise to return to play at BC Place. Team president Rick LeLacheur has stated a 14-game regular season schedule will be announced in the coming days, but the league’s August 5 target kick-off date means nothing to the premier.

“It’s not just dates, it’s dates and data. I’m optimistic that if they can push the season further into August we might be in a better place,” Horgan said during a press conference.

“It’s not going to be by dates, it’s going to be by data,” Dr. Henry said. “That’s helping us make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

For the CFL’s timeline to be met, the league requires ‘a significant number of fans’ to be allowed in stadiums by municipal, provincial, and federal governments. The data will drive the decisions made in B.C. and COVID-19 happenings in other jurisdictions will factor in because the Lions play against other teams from major cities across Canada.

“We need to know what’s going to be happening for the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg, Manitoba is experiencing a very difficult third wave at the moment,” Horgan said.

“Alberta and Ontario both with multiple franchises have seen their case counts starting to come down, I don’t know what the state of play is there.”

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.

“The game’s not over til it’s over, and you have to play until the final horn. And we have not yet heard that horn, we are near the end,” Horgan said about the pandemic while noting he’s a huge sports fan.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get there, but we’ll have to leave those discussions for those franchises with public health and with the government.”