May 21, 2020

An Update on The Canadian Football League and COVID-19 

Image of the inside of the stadium at TD Place facing the North side

An Update on The Canadian Football League and COVID-19 

The Canadian Football League (CFL) has released the following statement regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:

We have learned three things about running a league in a pandemic. Certainty is hard to come by. Scenarios are plentiful. And public safety is paramount.

So, while we keep our focus on safety, we want to keep our fans informed as the number of possible scenarios narrows and decisions are made.

Return to Play: September at the Earliest
It now appears the earliest the CFL might return to play – for a shortened but meaningful season – is this September.

Of course, a final decision on whether that will indeed happen will depend on what governments tell us is safe for our players and fans.

But barring some huge development, like a vaccine for COVID-19, it now seems clear we can rule out playing games this summer. There are several reasons, including the continuing restrictions on assemblies, travel and border crossings. Notably, several provinces and municipalities have already decided to
prohibit until September 1st, all sporting events featuring large gatherings.

We know there is a great deal of interest in whether we might play with or without fans, or with social distancing rules in place. We are examining all possibilities with both public safety and financial viability in mind. It’s just too soon to speculate on what a return to play in September might look like.

Please note that we are not announcing or promising a return this fall. We are just letting our fans know this remains one of the remaining possible scenarios for 2020. A cancelled season is also possible. Again, it’s too soon to make a sure call at this point.

The 2020 Grey Cup: A Change of Plans
The pandemic has had a drastic effect on travel, tourism and the economy. It has become increasingly clear we will not be able to host a traditional Grey Cup and Grey Cup Festival, certainly not with the size and scope that has become customary.

With that in mind, and in agreement with the Roughriders, we have made the decision to change our Grey Cup plan. The Saskatchewan Roughriders have been awarded the 2022 Grey Cup. And if we return to play this year, the host of the 2020 Grey Cup Game will be determined by a “win and host’ model. The
team that qualifies for the Grey Cup and has a superior regular season record to its’ opponent will host the Grey Cup Game. This gives all nine CFL teams a shot at hosting the Grey Cup in this unprecedented year. We are also considering moving the Grey Cup into December, as we explore every option that will allow us to play as many games as possible in 2020.

The plan for the Grey Cup in 2021 remains unchanged: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host for the first time in 25 years.

To our amazing fans in Saskatchewan: we look forward to once again celebrating your passion for the CFL with a Grey Cup Game and Festival just a little down the road.

Touchdown Atlantic: Not This Year, Sadly
The pandemic is forcing us to cancel the Touchdown Atlantic game in Halifax, which had been scheduled for July 25.

The only thing deeper than our regret is our resolve to return to Atlantic Canada. It pains us that this pandemic is preventing us from showing our friends in Nova Scotia, in person, just how saddened we are by the senseless tragedy they have been forced to bear, and how much we admire their strength.

We will directly reach out to the fans who have purchased tickets for TDA, which was a sellout.

We want to thank the organizers, sponsors, volunteers and fans who have put so much love and passion into planning for the 2020 Grey Cup in Saskatchewan and Touchdown Atlantic in Halifax.

We are grateful to the entire CFL family for its support and patience. Thank you to our fans, partners and staff for sticking with us. We feel badly for our players, who give us so much to cheer for on the field and in the community. We are honoured to work with them as we forge the path forward.

A special note of thanks to our season ticket holders. So many of you have reached out to us, looking not for refunds on your deposits, but reassurance about our future. This means the world to us right now. Thank you.

Another thank you to all the essential workers. You’re our champions. To families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19: our thoughts continue to be with you.

A Last Word
We know a lot must fall into place for us to play games this September. I’ve said myself it doesn’t appear to be our most likely scenario. But there is one other thing we’ve learned in this pandemic: a lot can change in 100 days.

Whatever comes, we will follow the advice of governments and public health officials. There is only one thing we want more than the return of CFL football – and that is a safe and healthy Canada.

Randy Ambrosie
Canadian Football League