Lisa MacLeod, the Ontario sport minister, recently came out and said she does not foresee fans in the stands by the start of the CFL season. Ontario just extended its stay-at-home order until at least June 2nd.
This is important because Ontario includes the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton. Home to three CFL franchises.
“I would say that would be ambitious. I just saw today in my own city of Ottawa the Canadian Tire Centre suggesting that they’re going to be having fans in stands for concerts and sports, and I just don’t see that at the moment.”
TSN had said previously reported that all six provinces had gotten some type of approval to move forward. The issue is that MacLeod was contracting it. She stated.
“No, we have not added our name yet to signing off on that. We have continually worked with the CFL over the past 14 months. We continue to work with them at the public health table, but to this point in time, no, the chief medical officer of health of Ontario has not yet signed off on a return to play protocol,”
Some took this comment as proof that TSN, who reported things were a go and indirectly, the CFL, had lied to them about the possibility of returning to play in 2021. However, the reporting did say verbal and was referring to return to practice. MacLeod also mentions ‘the start’ of the CFL season, not the entire CFL season.
One of the aspects of the CFL’s return to play was the likelihood of playing games in less COVID-affected cities at the start of the season. Teams could practice in these host cities as well.
The possibility of fans in the stands over the Summer has been mentioned as a no-go for some areas. However, the CFL will play most of its season in the Fall and Winter.
Dave Naylor reports that the CFL is planning on opening the season in Western Canada in August and that the six provinces have approved return to play protocols. These approvals do not include fans in the stands.
“The league’s return-to-play protocol does not address the issue of fans in stands.”
The CFL has addressed this issue in the past, saying they would be willing to play games in other areas until things begin to open up in places like Ontario.
“Provincial and municipal governments in the West have indicated a greater willingness to open stadiums to fans as COVID-19 case counts come down and more Canadians become vaccinated.
The league has been given no assurance by any province thus far that fans in stands will be permitted.”
Not having fans in the stands is a significant issue financially for the CFL, but it is still too early to tell how it will go. In the US, in Maryland, VAX rollout ramped up in March. This week the Governor announced that he had lifted occupancy restrictions on all Out-Door and In-Door events starting Saturday. This policy change is way earlier than some had predicted just a month ago.
June will be an interesting month for the CFL. Fans are excited to see the CFL return, while other ‘reporters’ who claim to love the CFL are ready to dance on its grave.
It is not the end of the world for the CFL as some like to portray it. It just too early to tell.
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