CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said that the possibility of having fans in the stands — which was not an option in 2020 — is the biggest reason why Monday’s vote by the board of governors was “enthusiastically unanimous” in favour of playing a fourteen-game regular season in 2021.
“We are looking very dramatically at the opportunity to have CFL fans return to CFL stadiums and watch the game they love,” said Ambrosie. “Let’s get fans back in our stadiums where they belong because they love our game and we love having them there.”
The league elected not to play in 2020 after it was denied an interest-free loan from the federal government. The campaign would have included a six-game ‘bubble’ season to be played entirely at IG Field in Winnipeg.
“If you look back, last summer was such a remarkable time. We were still relatively early into the COVID crisis and so many questions were being asked. We weren’t into the vaccination stream yet,” said Ambrosie. “It’s a totally different environment for us today given the large numbers of Canadians that are vaccinated.”
The league will not implement a national policy regarding proof of vaccination for fans to attend games. If any such requirements are created, it will be done so by local health authorities.
There were reports ahead of Monday’s announcement that the CFL may increase the number of teams in the postseason from six to eight. Ambrosie said the plan is for the 2021 season to feature a traditional playoff format, though expanding it remains a possibility.
“We did leave a small window open for a potential adjustment to the playoff structure but right now, as it stands, we are going to play our traditional six-team playoff format,” said Ambrosie. “Leaving it open is an opportunity to make decisions on the fly. If we’ve learned anything through this past seventeen months together is that sometimes things change and you want to be able to accommodate those changes if and when you need to.”
Ambrosie confirmed that the CFL will be unveiling its fourteen-game regular season schedule on Tuesday. The province of Ontario released a return-to-play framework for professional sports teams on Monday but this will not affect the schedule, which will reportedly be west-oriented for the month of August.
The 2021 CFL season will begin on August 5 and culminate in the 108th Grey Cup on December 12 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.