Manitoba’s chief public health officer sees merit of Winnipeg CFL hub idea

Manitoba's chief public health officer said Monday Winnipeg could be a hub city if the CFL decides to go ahead with a shortened season amid COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The CFL still hasn’t approached the Manitoba government about Winnipeg being a hub city for a potential 2020 season, but the province’s chief public health officer thinks the plan could work.

“I think there could be benefits,” Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday. “We have to learn to start living with this virus.

“We have to try to find ways to get back to the things that we enjoy doing, but we have to ensure we’re protecting the public as we do so. So we’d have to take a very close look at any plans that are submitted and we’d provide feedback for that.”

Read more: CFL denies reports Winnipeg would be hub city for shortened 2020 season

There were reports Friday that the CFL had settled upon Winnipeg as a hub city for an abbreviated 2020 regular season. But a league spokesman later denied the suggestion, saying no decisions have been made either on a hub or if the league will play this year.

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The 2020 regular season was scheduled to kick off June 11 but hasn’t started yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest a shortened 2020 season would begin is September, but that a cancelled campaign is also possible.

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Roussin said there’s been no formal discussions with the CFL regarding Winnipeg being a hub city.

“We haven’t had a specific discussion with the CFL on that,” he said.

“Certainly, we’ve provided some risk mitigation strategies to many of our professional sports teams, including the Winnipeg football club, so we still have ongoing discussions.”

Read more: Rick Zamperin: CFL’s newest coronavirus plan is way out of the box

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The CFL approached the federal government in April for financial assistance. The league’s three-part proposal called for $30 million immediately, additional monies for an abbreviated season and up to $120 million more if the season is cancelled.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox said Monday the league has made no formal request to the provincial government for any financial assistance.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association are discussing amendments to the collective bargaining agreement that would allow for an abbreviated season to be played. The league has imposed a July 23 deadline for the revisions to be made.

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