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CFL 2020 Season Canceled

August 17, 2020 - Canadian Football League (CFL) News Release

TORONTO - The Canadian Football League (CFL) is shifting its focus to 2021 and beyond after deciding to not play a shortened season this Fall.

"Our league governors decided today it is in the best long-term interests of the CFL to concentrate on the future," said Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

"We are absolutely committed to the future of our league and pursuing our vision of a bigger, stronger, more global CFL."

Season ticket holders can expect to hear soon from their clubs with news on how they can apply their deposits to next season or other offers.

And the CFL will have lots to say in the days ahead on next season including the 2021 Grey Cup in Hamilton, which Ambrosie predicted will be the largest "reunion" in Canadian sports history.

He added the league and its teams are working together on a new initiative that will allow fans to show their pride in the CFL's storied history at the same time they pledge their support for the future.

The league lost its number one source of revenue - fans in the stands -- when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented large gatherings.

Unlike US-based leagues that can count on television or streaming to provide the lion's share of their revenue, the CFL depends heavily on its live gate.

Still it spent the past several weeks working on a plan to launch a shortened season this September.

It was to be played in a single location - Winnipeg had been chosen as the hub city - with players living in a protected "bubble" consisting of the game day stadium, practice fields and hotels.

But the league also consistently said the plan would require some meaningful federal government support, sign off from public health authorities, and a new collective bargaining agreement with the Canadian Football Players Association.

The league and the union were close to announcing a tentative deal for 2020 with its players. Public health authorities in Manitoba had formally signed off on the plan and federal public health authorities had praised it publicly. But meaningful federal government support was not forthcoming.

"Even with government funding and a new CBA, our owners and community-held teams would have had to endure significant financial losses to play in 2020," Ambrosie said.

"Without them, the losses would be so large they would really hamper our ability to really bounce back strongly next year and beyond."

The federal government did suggest at times that the CFL pursue a commercial loan which would be partially backed by Ottawa, but it was short term and very costly in terms of interest and fees, Ambrosie said.

"That kind of arrangement would hamper our recovery more than bolster it. This outcome after months of discussions with government officials is disappointing. But we're focused now on the long term future and we will continue to work with the federal and provincial governments in that context," he said.

"On two occasions, in June and again at the beginning of August, when we were resigned to the fact that there would be no meaningful government support and therefore no 2020 season, the government reached out to us with new indications they wanted to step up and help. But at the end of the day, the help we needed to play this year never materialized."

The league did have very positive discussions with the Canadian Football League Players' Association and the two parties were close to finalizing a tentative agreement which, if ratified, would have met another requirement for play to resume this year.

"We look forward to building on our relationship with our players as we look to the future. We need to use this time to build a bigger, better, stronger CFL and I'm confident we can do just that," Ambrosie said.

The Commissioner acknowledged that the waiting has been hard for players and their families, as well as coaches, football staff and office staff across the league.

"We know people have been longing for certainty," he said. "But we felt we owed it to our fans and our players to do everything we could to find a way play this year if we could so safely and in a way that made responsible and feasible as well as prudent and safe."

Ambrosie thanked CFL fans, players and partners for their ongoing commitment to the league.

"The support, understanding and patience have been understanding. Our players have hung in there despite the hardship imposed on their families by a postponed season. Our fans keep asking how they can help. And our partners, especially our friends at Bell Media, have been incredible to us," he said.

"I want to thank all of them. I also want to express our gratitude to all our fellow Canadians because their efforts flattened the pandemic's curve to the extent that a 2020 season appeared feasible. Unfortunately, not all the necessary pieces came together," Ambrosie added.

"Now the time has come to shift our focus to 2021 and beyond. We will be back. And we will use this time to ensure we come back stronger than ever."

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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