If Canadian Football League governors vote next Monday to proceed with the 2021 season as scheduled, a financially devastating 621-day drought will end on Aug. 5.
That would be one year, eight months and 13 days between games for the CFL, which last staged a tilt on Nov. 24, 2019 when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup in Calgary.
League governors voted last Aug. 17 to cancel the 2020 season and it has been reported that the nine CFL teams combined for a loss of at least $60 million. Edmonton and Winnipeg have reported losses of about $7 million apiece and it is expected that Saskatchewan will do the same later this year.
Governors are scheduled to hold a conference call on June 14 to discuss and vote on the proposed Aug. 5 start date and 14-game schedule. If they give it the green light — and it was not immediately clear if unanimous approval is required — the full schedule will be released soon after. Training camps would open on or about July 10 and it is believed there won’t be any pre-season games played.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced in late April that the Aug. 5 kickoff date was dependent upon “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.”
The COVID-19 landscape in half of the six provinces in which the CFL plays would suggest that approval from governors for an Aug. 5 kickoff is a decent bet, since the schedule calls for eastern-based teams to play their opening couple of games on the road in the west.
The Alberta government has stated that McMahon Stadium in Calgary and Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton will be allowed to operate at full capacity once 70 per cent of Albertans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. As of Sunday, 56.8 per cent of the population had at least one jab.
In B.C., if the government goes to Stage 4 of its restart as scheduled on Sept. 7, it’s possible B.C. Place Stadium could operate at full capacity at that point. The Lions’ schedule is front-loaded with a couple of away games, in hopes of playing their home schedule in front of as many fans as possible. Team president Rick LeLacheur has said he believes the team will be able to host about 4,500 fans at any games held before Sept. 7.
And in Saskatchewan, the government’s reopening plan includes lifting restrictions on outdoor gatherings after the province has been in Step 2 for three weeks and 70 per cent of the population aged 12 and up has received at least one dose of vaccine. As of Tuesday, that number was 65 per cent. Saskatchewan is on target to move to Step 2 on June 20.