Return of the CPL and CEBL means the CFL is out of excuses

Photo courtesy: CFL

While CFL fans wait with bated breath for the outcome of the June 14 vote by the CFL board of governors, fans of Canada’s two other pro sports leagues are gearing up to cheer on their teams.

Both the Canadian Premier League (CPL) and Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) have announced they will return to play later this month, with the CEBL beginning their third season on June 24 and the CPL also beginning their third campaign on June 26.

The CPL will begin their 2021 season with a month-long bubble in Winnipeg that will see each team play eight matches at IG Field, while the CEBL will begin play as normal, with teams playing out of their home markets. The CEBL is also expecting that they will be the first league in Canada to have fans back in the stands.

Both leagues also operated successful bubble seasons in 2020, with the CPL holding what they dubbed The Island Games on Prince Edward Island late last summer, and the CEBL playing their Summer Series in St. Catherines, Ontario over a two-week period in July and August.

With both leagues not only being able to play successful campaigns in 2020, but also getting the official word that their 2021 seasons are a go, one has to wonder what the heck is taking the CFL so long to get its act together.

While those leagues are full go, we still have very little knowledge of what is going to happen with the CFL. We know a vote is scheduled for June 14 to decide if the season will start on August 5. The CFL and the CFLPA agreed to an amended CBA for 2021, so all that is left is for the governors to vote yes, but we still don’t know for sure if that will happen.

We don’t even know officially if the CFL has had its return-to-play protocols approved. The CEBL announced on June 10 that Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan have all signed off on their return-to-play plans, but nothing official yet from the CFL.

On draft night it was reported that the league was given approval from every province to return to the field, but that report was later refuted by multiple provinces. How an indoor sports league, and one that believes they will be the first to welcome fans back in the stands in a meaningful way, can get official approval from the provinces and the outdoor sports league can’t makes no sense to me.

While I think we all understood why things were so murky a year ago, what with the rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league opting not to play in 2020, while maybe not the right call — both the CPL and CEBL were able to successfully stage bubble seasons last year, so I think the CFL could have done so as well — wasn’t exactly the wrong call either.

But if a further delay happens for the 2021 season, I think we all need to question just what the heck is going on in the top levels of the league. There are zero excuses left for the CFL to not give the go ahead for the season to begin on August 5.

And I don’t even want to get into the outrage that will occur if the league doesn’t play at all in 2021.

While soccer and basketball fans in this country are looking at schedules and anticipating their upcoming seasons, football fans in Canada are still left wondering when they will finally be able to do the same.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.