'We will be back': CFL cancels 2020 season because of pandemic, financial issues
EDMONTON -- The Canadian Football League will not play a shortened season in 2020.
The league's board of governors announced the decision on Monday, after the federal government denied its request for a $30 million interest-free loan.
Edmonton's CFL team confirmed the decision Monday morning.
“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,” Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a written release. “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."
The CFL relies heavily on ticket revenue to operate, and the pandemic has had major financial consequences.
"It's a tremendous blow for our team, it's a tremendous blow for our league and for our fans, and for our partners and our players and our staff, it's a tough day," said EE Football Team President and CEO Chris Presson.
The EE Football Team had to layoff 33 employees at the beginning of the pandemic, said Presson and hasn't been able to bring them back to work like the club had previously hoped.
The team currently has 28 people employed, with more jobs expected to be reduced in the future.
When asked if he could envision a CFL season without fans, Presson said it would be a big challenge for the club and the league.
"It would sure be challenging, you know, knowing that we're a gate-driven league, and even though we have our agreement with TSN and a number of other retail partners, it certainly makes that a really big challenge," said Presson.
He says without fans, merchandise, food and beverage, and even parking sales would leave a "massive hole" in the business.
"We continue to be a part of the unknown that everyone else is, and we hope and pray that we'll get to the other side," said Presson.
Many players have to figure out where their income is coming from this year, because unlike some sports leagues, CFL players are paid per game, so if they aren’t playing, they aren’t making money.
That's led many, like Alexandre Dupuis to find other sources of income. The Edmonton fullback started working in the film industry before COVID-19 caused world-wide shutdowns.
"I was working actually on the movie 'Home Alone' that they were making in Montreal," Dupuis says the movie stopped filming because of the pandemic, but production is supposed to start again soon.
Dupuis has also been working as a personal trainer online during the pandemic.
He says as a player there's a lot of uncertainty about what the CFL will do in 2021 if fans are still not allowed in the stands.
"So are you betting on the fact that people will be able to come back, or you just trying to find another solution to provide for your family, provide for yourself," said Dupuis.
But there's a silver lining to Dupuis, saying lots of players will use the forced time off to make sure they're game ready for next season.
"It's an opportunity to take time off, make sure our bodies are healthy," said Dupuis. "Football is a hard sport on your body, so I'm sure everyone is taking advantage of that."
Edmonton players David Beard and Trevor Harris both called the news disappointing.
"We love to play football and we're not playing football, so," Beard shrugged during a media conference Monday afternoon.
Harris added, "In some way, we expected something like this. It was one of two things: either we were going to be playing ball, or staying home. And as time went on, they were telling us there was optimism, but inside yourself, you're feeling pessimism."
The quarterback also responded to the backlash that surfaced at the idea of Ottawa bailing out the league.
"I feel like I've embedded myself, as part Canadian part American," the nine-year-player commented. "Us guys, you know, this is how a lot of us feed our families. It's unfortunate."
Beard said he would be taking a few weeks off and helping in-law family with harvest, while Harris revealed plans for professional certificates in nutrition and personal training.
Both told media that Monday's news created uncertainty but no lack of confidence in the CFL's future.
"It's always darkest before dawn, and I feel that the upcoming years are going to be bright," Harris quoted.
"No, we don't have confirmation of those things, but with this pandemic, as soon as everything calms down with that, I think that's when the clearer picture will take form -- not just for the CFL."
Edmonton season ticket holders will be contacted by the team. Options could include moving their tickets to next season.
The 2021 Grey Cup will be played in Hamilton.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Dan Grummett.