35 percent stadium capacity required to stage CFL games, playoff could expand if season shortened: Naylor

Photo courtesy: TSN

The hope of a 2021 CFL season got a massive boost Thursday when word broke that the league and the CFLPA had reached an agreement in principle on an amended collective bargaining agreement for the shortened season.

TSN insider Dave Naylor provided some instant details of what the new agreement contains.

“Hearing some details on the amended CBA ratified by the CFLPA for 2021 season: There will be no pre-season. Teams will be allowed to expand practice rosters by five as long as border/quarantine remains. Roster reduced from 46 to a max of 44. One global player per team, two QBs,” Naylor tweeted as the news broke.

“Interesting … CFL may add 2 teams to playoff formula. I’m assuming that would be in event league is unable to start Aug 5th and regular season becomes reduced. But that’s just my guess.”

In that scenario, eight of the league’s nine teams would make the post-season, but that addition could prove important based on Naylor’s final tidbit.

“Also hearing 35 percent of a stadium’s capacity must be open to fans in order to stage a game,” he added.

Naylor later issued the following clarification.

“Clarification on 35 percent of stadiums open: the league commits to play a minimum of 10 games as long as 35 percent of stadiums are open. It could still opt to play with less than 35 percent,” he tweeted. “All this likely moot if there’s a YES vote on Monday to play a 14-game sked.”

In late April, the CFL delayed its 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.

The league’s board of governors will meet on Monday, June 14 to vote on whether to proceed with that timeline, as well as ratify the new CBA. However, attendance has not yet been promised in every CFL city, with Ontario lagging behind the rest of the pack.

Farhan Lalji responded to his TSN colleague, saying he does not expect any team to have official assurances of that level of capacity in time for the vote, instead working of projections and background conversation. That adds an element of distinct uncertainty in to the process.

After the Canadian government refused to provide a $30 million interest-free loan a year ago, the board of governors voted to cancel the 2020 season. The CFL reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million in 2020 and are set to lose millions more if any kind of season is played in 2021.

The league and players’ 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 details in hopes of getting the final stamp from the nation’s capital.