CFL owners not unanimous on playing a shortened 2020 season

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie speaks at a news conference in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

In an interview Thursday with an Edmonton radio station, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie explained that his latest focus will be determining a “go-no go date” on a 2020 CFL season.

Multiple sources have told Sportsnet, however, that there are some franchises in the league unsure at the moment on whether or not to proceed with playing games at all this year.

Those sources say there are at least two privately-run teams that have expressed reservations about going forward with a reduced schedule this fall under the present circumstances. Ambrosie said last week the league was exploring plans of potentially beginning a modified run of games beginning in September.

The belief is that the CFL’s community-run franchises – in Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Winnipeg – are on-board with getting some kind of football in to help with their bottom line. Those three organizations do not have the benefit of a single owner who can write cheques to cover financial losses. On the other hand, Montreal, B.C., Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto are privately-run franchises.

Ambrosie’s latest comments came on 630 CHED, where he told host Morley Scott that he has been asked by presidents and owners of the CFL franchises to “really focus” on when the league’s drop-dead date on this season would be.

“I have been challenged to come back to the governors with a recommendation on our ‘go-no go’ date,” Ambrosie told Scott on Thursday.

As Sportsnet first reported last week, the CFL created a return to play committee – which includes doctors, immunologists and other specialists – and they have presented a model featuring two hub cities for the league’s nine teams to be based out of. The system unveiled by the committee was thorough from a health and wellness standpoint, complete with a comprehensive series of testing protocols and detail on cleaning and sanitation. While that may be the best way to proceed medically, team and league sources do not believe this format is economically viable.

To help on the financial side, the league continues to lobby the federal government for up to $150 million in funding. Things had been relatively quiet between the CFL and Ottawa since May 11, but over the last two days there was contact with two departments that had been previously untapped.

There was communication on the league’s behalf with Aneil Jaswal, a senior policy advisor to the Minister of Finance, both Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, there was also communication on the CFL’s behalf with Kyle Nicholson, a senior policy advisor for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and with Olga Radchenko, a policy advisor for IRCC.

There have been five Members of Parliament known to have had contact with the CFL, and in most cases specifically with Ambrosie. There has also been communication on the league’s behalf with at least two members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet: on May 11 with Minister of Justice David Lametti, and on April 6 with Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

[Note: The Toronto Argonauts are owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). Rogers Communications holds an ownership stake in MLSE.]


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