They say it is history that will be the ultimate judge, but for instant analysis there is none better than Farhan Lalji.
With actual football on the horizon for the first time in more than a year and a half, the TSN insider joined Dave Jamieson on TSN 1260 in Edmonton and dropped his own brutally honest assessment of how the failures of 2020 ensured a positive vote from the board of governors on Monday.
“I think they all realized that we can’t do this to ourselves to death. We can all debate what should have happened last year, but certainly I believe they should have played,” Lalji admitted frankly.
“I think there was more lost than gained by not playing, especially when you consider the dollars involved at the end of it all. It just didn’t make sense to me.”
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 regardless of how successful the 2021 campaign turns out.
While CFL owners believe they made the right choice for their pocket books, it unquestionably damaged the league’s reputation with fans and players alike. The league couldn’t afford another black eye, making the monumental vote to begin the week little more than a formality.
“They couldn’t go through that again and they couldn’t go straight into delay again, because really when they got to that meeting at the beginning of the week, it really wasn’t about, ‘are we going to play or not,’ it was about ‘are we going to play August 5th or are we going to play in September on Labour Day weekend.’ That was really what they were deciding,” Lalji explained.
“I think they knew all along they were going to be playing. It was just a case of how much pain can we handle it? How good do we feel about our conversations with government to let us believe we’re going to have fans in the stands in August? All of those things lined up and thankfully we’re going to be playing football soon.”
The much-anticipated yes vote means the CFL will play a delayed 14-game schedule kicking-off on August 5, culminating in a December 12 Grey Cup. The league required ‘a significant number of fans’ to be allowed in stadiums by municipal, provincial, and federal governments to move forward, and while officially permission has not been granted by all provinces, assurances were enough to proceed.
The league and the CFLPA also came to an agreement on an amended collective bargaining agreement, ratified by the league on Monday, that will allow the season to proceed as planned. Lalji notes relations between the two sides are much improved, but amicable negotiations were the result of much of the heavy lifting being done last year and pressure on both sides to get a deal done.
“I think both sides knew that we’ve got to get on the field, we just have to do that,” Lalji said. “When you start with that and you don’t have a PA threatening strike or you don’t have ownership groups threatening a lockout, it does make it a lot better when that’s just not part of the dynamic of the discussion.”