Rick Zamperin: CFL Commissioner optimistic about 2021, fans may not be

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie delivered his annual state of the league address on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie says he is optimistic that the league will return to playing in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out this season.

Ambrosie held his annual state of the league address on Monday, virtually of course, on what should have been the start of Grey Cup week in Regina.

But instead of talking about an upcoming championship game, Ambrosie was forced to look months down the road at what a 2021 CFL season might look like amid a pandemic.

Buoyed by news on Monday that U.S. drugmaker Moderna’s potential coronavirus vaccine was 94 per cent effective in protecting people, a week after Pfizer suggested its vaccine was 90 per cent effective, Ambrosie’s optimism jumped off the screen during his address.

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The Canadian Football League certainly has time on its side as it prepares for next season, including the 2021 Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, but as of right now all of the issues that forced it to scrap this year’s campaign still exist.

COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Canada, restrictive public health measures remain in place in every province that has a CFL team, the non-essential travel ban is still in effect at the U.S.-Canada border, and equally as important, the league’s financial picture remains flatlined.

That last point is the most important one and it relates in large part to whether or not fans will be allowed to attend games in 2021.

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The CFL is heavily reliant on ticket revenue and if the league’s nine teams are not allowed to have fans all that optimism can be flushed down the toilet.

Ambrosie addressed that last point in his address on Monday, saying the league “will plan for some scenario of less than full potential attendance.”

That’s all well and good, and the CFL should have those plans in place, but what percentage of attendance will allow each team to be profitable, and more importantly, will that number be approved by provincial health officials?

It is good to see that the CFL commissioner is optimistic about 2021, but until fans see some concrete plans in place for how everything is going to work, you can’t blame them for feeling the opposite.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

Click to play video: 'CFL players are getting back to work after season cancelled'
CFL players are getting back to work after season cancelled

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