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CFL delays opening of season, targets Aug. 5 start date

Nov 25, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie during interview pre-game of the 106th Grey Cup game between the Ottawa Redblacks and Calgary Stampeders at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. Calgary defeated Ottawa. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian Football League is delaying the start of its regular season because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, with plans to begin a 14-game schedule on Aug. 5.

The league was shut down in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19.

“Our revised target date to start our regular season is August 5,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a league-issued statement Wednesday.

“I say ‘target date’ because our plans are subject to the state of COVID-19 across the country. A so-called ‘third wave’ in some provinces is forcing us today to postpone the start of our regular season, which had been scheduled for June 10.”

Under the plan, the championship Grey Cup would be played on Dec. 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

Ambrosie said starting play on Aug. 5 would require public health officials to sign off on the CFL’s plan to protect the health of players and coaches.

Provincial governments also must allow the clubs “to host a significant number of fans in the stands, in a significant number of venues at the start of the season, and in the rest of our venues soon after that, so a 2021 season is financially tenable for our clubs,” he said.

“The CFL depends on ticket revenue more than other professional sports leagues in North America. Fans in the stands account for at least half of our revenue,” Ambrosie said. “Our clubs already stand to suffer substantial financial losses this year. Playing without fans in the stands would dramatically increase those losses.

“We are prepared to be creative as well as prudent. For example, if we are unable to host fans in the East because of COVID-19, we are prepared to start play in the West, provided eastern teams can return to their home provinces, and play in front of their fans, later in the season.

In 2019, the teams played an 18-game schedule in the regular season that began June 13. It culminated in the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary on Nov. 24, when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 for their 11th league title but first since 1990.

–Field Level Media