Als president Mario Cecchini: CFL unlikely to have preseason games in 2021

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

Montreal Alouettes’ president Mario Cecchini believes the CFL is unlikely to hold a preseason ahead of its shortened 14-game regular season in 2021.

“Training camp is going to be so sweet,” Cecchini told Mark Lidbetter of The Suburban News. “We probably won’t have any preseason games, so the first time that they will actually catch a ball in a competitive environment will be that first game.”

The CFL has delayed its start date with a 14-game schedule targeted to kick-off on August 5, culminating in a December 12 Grey Cup in Hamilton. 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.

The Alouettes submitted their return-to-play plan to Quebec health authorities in April. Cecchini said the province had “no major problems” with it, though the age of Percival Molson Stadium poses some challenges.

“It presents its challenges from that point of view,” he said. “Sometimes closed areas and all that, but we will figure it out. The government’s given us a thumbs up in terms of how we intend to do all this and the team has been preparing literally non-stop.”

One thing working to the team’s advantage is the fact that the Montreal Canadiens were permitted to host 2,500 fans for their most recent playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bell Centre is an indoor venue with a capacity of 21,302, while Percival Molson is an outdoor venue that seats 23,420.

The CFL and CFLPA 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.

“We’ve been waiting two years now — [general manager] Danny [Maciocia] and I and the new owner. It will have been twenty months that we take the field after the appointment, so like a lot of the fans we just can’t wait.”

Cecchini was named the president of the Montreal Alouettes in January 2020.