CFL commissioner remains hopeful for football in 2020

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the league is still planning for a 2020 season, but the situation continues to change. The Canadian Press / Andrew Vaughan

For once, the ball isn’t in Randy Ambrosie’s hands — neither the football nor the crystal ball.

However, the Canadian Football League (CFL) commissioner is trying to remain optimistic without knowing what’s ahead for his league.

“What we’ve learned is that the [novel coronavirus] is kind of in charge right now and we have to keep an open mind,” Ambrosie told Global News.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: NHL considering neutral host sites to play fan-less games

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As the weeks go by, and events in Canada continue to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ambrosie is still hopeful there will be football in 2020. But he also understands it’s out of his control.

“My definition of ‘realistic’ is changing,” he said.

“When we started and this whole crisis really hit home for all of us, you had these very definitive ideas of how you thought things would play out and this has been humbling, very, very humbling.

“I think I’m speaking for Canadians from coast to coast that what we might have thought true a week ago may be different today.”

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The CFL has already said its earliest starting date would be in July. However, as bans of large gatherings continue across the country, it appears that start date could be pushed back even farther.

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And as the season gets shorter and games get cancelled, the financial impact is starting to become more apparent. The CFL is a gate-driven league, meaning the league needs fans in seats in order to remain a viable business, so not having games has a huge impact.

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“It quite honestly would be devastating for us,” said Ambrosie. “We avoid thinking about the idea of we might not play this year.”

While the league and it’s nine teams would take a massive financial hit, so would the players, as they, too, could be without income this summer.

“Some people do need those cheques coming in,” Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Shaq Evans said. “Shoot, I need them. It’s tough but you just try to do your best to make it work.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Roughriders’ receiver Shaq Evans is practising patience during COVID-19' Saskatchewan Roughriders’ receiver Shaq Evans is practising patience during COVID-19
Saskatchewan Roughriders’ receiver Shaq Evans is practising patience during COVID-19 – Apr 20, 2020

And that’s exactly what everyone is trying to do: putting their team colours aside to look for a solution. The commissioner said all nine teams have been working together, with everyone’s best interests in mind.

“We often talk about football being the ultimate team game,” Ambrosie said. “I think we’re seeing that living itself out off the field right now… While each team has its own business to run, there is an awful lot of collaboration happening right now. We realize we are all in this together and we are definitely stronger as one unified group as we are separated from one another.

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“We’re all playing for Team Canada right now,” Ambrosie continued. “This is our No. 1 job, is to get this country healed and get through the crisis. And we will be back as a league.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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