CFL eyes a September return to football

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Canada’s gridiron league has rolled out a plan to get its players back on the field.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) provided an update Wednesday on its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While no decision has been made yet on whether it will proceed or not, the CFL is hoping to play football this season, but with some adjustments.

According to a statement issued by the league, the season’s start will most certainly be delayed, with the health of players, staff, coaches, fans, broadcasters, and others being the main consideration.

“Barring some huge development, like a vaccine for COVID-19, it now seems clear we can rule out playing games this summer,” the CFL said in the statement. “There are several reasons, including the continuing restrictions on assemblies, travel and border crossings. Notably, several provinces and municipalities have already decided to prohibit until September 1st, all sporting events featuring large gatherings.”

Instead, the CFL has planned to start the season in September in what the league calls a “shortened but meaningful season”. This is subject to any guidelines or emergency orders in place concerning large gatherings.

If there is a season, there will also be some changes to the Grey Cup, which was scheduled for Regina, Saskatchewan.

“It has become increasingly clear we will not be able to host a traditional Grey Cup and Grey Cup Festival, certainly not with the size and scope that has become customary,” the release went on. “If we return to play this year, the host of the 2020 Grey Cup Game will be determined by a ‘win and host’ model. The team that qualifies for the Grey Cup and has a superior regular season record to its opponent will host the Grey Cup Game. This gives all nine CFL teams a shot at hosting the Grey Cup in this unprecedented year.”

Regina will now host the Grey Cup in 2022. Hamilton will host the event in 2021 as scheduled.

Finally, the CFL has cancelled the Touchdown Atlantic game, scheduled for July 25 in Halifax, a decision made more difficult by the recent mass shooting in that province.

“It pains us that this pandemic is preventing us from showing our friends in Nova Scotia, in person, just how saddened we are by the senseless tragedy they have been forced to bear, and how much we admire their strength,” the CFL said.

CFL teams have postponed the start of their training camps, and the annual Global Draft has been postponed until the camps actually begin.