Ontario sport minister Lisa MacLeod ‘very optimistic’ regarding fans in stands ‘this summer’

Ontario sport minister Lisa MacLeod has been working with the three CFL teams in her province on proper operations and having fans in the stands for the 2021 season.

She has been in constant contact with Ottawa Redblacks president Mark Goudie, Hamilton Tiger-Cats chief executive officer Scott Mitchell, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chief venues and operations officer Nick Eaves.

“They all have my cell phone number, always happy to take their call and make sure that we can provide guidance needed. We want to make sure the Ticats are in a position to host that Grey Cup and hopefully we’ll be in a place with the accelerated return to play where they’re at their training camps very shortly,” MacLeod said.

“We’ve released the framework a couple of weeks ago. Some of the regulations will be coming out in short order, hopefully in the next day or two — that’s imminent. They’ve certainly been around the table and we’ve been working with all three CFL teams, making sure they can meet the thresholds and the criteria that has been set out.”

The focus has been finalizing the COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the franchises to begin training camp on July 10 in advance of the regular season kicking off in August. For the first three weeks of the schedule Ottawa, Hamilton, and Toronto are either on the road out west or have bye weeks. In Week 4, the Argos are scheduled to host Edmonton on Thursday, August 26, and the Redblacks are slated to be at home against B.C. Saturday, August 28.

MacLeod is aware of the dates currently in place and has been working with the chief medical officer of health to determine the number of fans that could be allowed to enter open air stadiums in the province. Since the onset of the pandemic in Ontario, the only spectators allowed at any event were the 550 vaccinated healthcare workers at Scotiabank Arena for Game 7 of the first round NHL playoff series between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs.

“The issue for football is a bit different than hockey, simply because it’s outdoors and the chief medical officer of health has said if there is a return to activity it is outdoors. My hope is we get to a point where I will be able to announce what those capacity limits would look like for fans in stands at the appropriate time. There will be more guidance coming out imminently,” MacLeod said.

“We are very optimistic that this summer with people being inoculated as well as the case counts going down — provided that we can deal with the variants of concern that are coming across on our borders — that we’ll start to see that to occur. Similar to what we’re seeing with capacity limits in restaurants and retail at the moment.”

According to MacLeod, there is a proposal from the Ontario pro sports teams committee being looked over by the health table for potential approval of fans in stands.

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