Planning for 2021 continues for Edmonton’s football club

New Edmonton Eskimos president and CEO Chris Presson speaks to the media on Aug. 7, 2019. Reid Wilkins/630 CHED

Its been business as usual for the Canadian Football League the last few months. The league has released a schedule and teams have been signing players and preparing for free agency and the Canadian draft.

After being forced to the sidelines for the 2020 season by COVID-19, the CFL continues to show signs that they want to play in 2021.

“We have our return-to-play plan written,” Chris Presson the president and CEO of the Edmonton Football Team said. “We work on it every day and have weekly phone calls, we talk about it and share plans across the league”

June 10 is opening day in the CFL — training camps are scheduled to begin three to four weeks before that — but so much is contingent on what happens with COVID-19 and the vaccination process across the country over the next several months.

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“It’s a moving target, that literally day to day seems to change,” Presson said. “One moment the new strain of the virus doesn’t matter, the next moment it does. One moment it seems like things are better in the eastern part of Canada, the next day they aren’t.

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“Its the complexities of the unknown that make it challenging from day to day to plan. We just want to make it as safe as possible for our players and our fans.”

And that’s why there are several plans in play — especially when it comes to fans returning to watch games in stadium.

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“I think we have modeled about everything from 10 per cent to 15 to 25 , 35 to 50, all the way up to full capacity,” Presson said in a video released on the team’s website.

“To make it work, we have to specifically target a number that we know once we flush that out will allow us to either assume a profit which would be great or manage the liability with a loss.”

Presson said the CFL has been paying close attention to the NFL, NHL and NBA and how those organizations are operating during the pandemic, and getting a lot of advice from Dr. Dhiren Naidu – the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Football Team doctor – who played a huge role in putting together the NHL and World Junior bubbles in Edmonton.

“He is our biggest advocate and he has a lot of credibility with the province, and a lot of credibility with all the provinces because he built the NHL bubble.”

Click to play video: 'CFL announces 2020 season officially cancelled'
CFL announces 2020 season officially cancelled

Plans are in place now, but Presson knows they can change and said contingency plans are also ready.

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“We’re planning to play, we’re planning on that June start date and we plan as well for any deviation to that. If things, once we get to May, don’t look like they’ve improved, then we will have a plan to reverse course and do what we need to do.”

That could mean a late start, or a shorter schedule but Presson prefers to stay positive.

“We’re planning to have a full season and we’re planning on starting in June.”

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