Dave Naylor expects unanimous vote in favour of 2021 season, league would ‘essentially dare’ dissenters not to play

Photo courtesy: TSN

The upcoming board of governors vote on the proposed August 5 start to the 2021 season has everyone on edge but TSN insider Dave Naylor believes the result may well be predetermined.

“This is not like a federal election where you’ve got tens of millions of people voting and who knows how it is going to turn out. We’ve got nine votes here,” he told The Rod Pedersen Show on Friday.

“I don’t know whether the league would schedule a vote if it didn’t know it had the votes. It’s not like this is some great mystery.”

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. That has not been formally granted at this point and teams will have to vote on how to proceed using their best educated guess.

The lack of clarity has added an element of uncertainty and the player’s association firmly put the ball in the owner’s court late Thursday when they announced the ratification of an amended collective bargaining agreement for the shortened 2021 season. CFLPA vice-president John Bowman went even further, suggesting the vote on June 14 should be televised to show the public if every governor isn’t fully bought in.

Naylor doesn’t believe something that severe would be necessary but won’t quite go so far as to guarantee a positive outcome.

“I tend to think there is a very strong likelihood that we are going to get a yes and that is the feeling across the league, but I stop short of guaranteeing it because, as we know, there is nothing for sure in a pandemic,” Naylor admitted.

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.

Teams have been much more vocal about their commitment to play this time around, with the MLSE-led Toronto Argonauts viewed as the most hesitant voice in the room. Should they, or another team, provide a dissenting vote, it wouldn’t be the end of a CFL season, but it could begin a dangerous game of chicken.

“Let’s say the vote was 8-1. You are allowed to vote no and you might still play. You are allowed to express your opinion at the board of governors table and then say we voted no but we will concede and play,” Naylor explained.

“But if a team said no, we are not prepared to play — and I didn’t get this from the commissioner, I don’t have anything official on this — I think what would happen is the league would go forward and essentially dare that team say we’re not playing.”

That would put the onus on the club in opposition to justify turning its back on fans, players and staff, a truly uncomfortable position. But while that would work with an 8-1 vote, it would be near impossible if the tally comes to 7-2 or even 6-3.

It’s a scary thought, but not on CFL fans should spend much time on.

“Let me just punctuate that by saying I do not think that is going to happen,” Naylor emphasized, focusing instead on the positive spin of unanimity.

Editor’s note: Naylor has since clarified on Twitter that, while he expects the vote to pass, he does not necessarily expect that it will be unanimous.