The Canadian Football League is moving away from its traditional Grey Cup Festival format, while it also hopes to return in September in order to salvage a season ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement sent to season ticket holders across the country on Wednesday afternoon, the league announced Regina would no longer be hosting the 2020 Grey Cup game. Should a shortened season take place, the championship game will be hosted by the team that qualifies for the Grey Cup game and has the best regular-season record.
“This gives all nine CFL teams a shot at hosting the Grey Cup in this unprecedented year,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said.
The league is also considering moving the Grey Cup — usually played in November — into December as it explores every option to play as many games as possible this season.
It also means Regina has now been awarded the 2022 Grey Cup game, while Hamilton will host the title game in 2021.
“The plan for the Grey Cup in 2021 remains unchanged. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host for the first time in 25 years,” Ambrosie said.
“To our amazing fans in Saskatchewan, we look forward to once again celebrating your passion for the CFL with a Grey Cup game and Festival just a little down the road.”
This all comes against a backdrop of the league asking the federal government for up to $150 million in financial aid — $30 million has been asked for immediate assistance and $120 million has been requested should the league not have a season at all.
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Eyeing a September start
As for whether or not a season will actually occur, that remains a big question mark at this point, but Ambrosie said should a shortened season take place, it’ll begin in September at the earliest.
“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 Sept. 1, all sporting events featuring large gatherings,” Ambrosie said in a release.
While there is cautious optimism, the CFL is putting player and public safety above anything else.
“We know there is a great deal of interest in whether we might play with or without fans or with social distancing rules in place,” Ambrosie said.
“We are examining all possibilities with both public safety and financial viability in mind. It’s just too soon to speculate on what a return to play in September might look like.”
The league is making it very clear in its statement that, while it eyes a September return, one other ominous scenario remains.
“A cancelled season is also possible. Again, it’s too soon to make a sure call at this point,” Ambrosie said.
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Touchdown Atlantic cancelled
One of the marquee events of the season has been cancelled. The Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders were set to play a regular season game scheduled in Halifax on July 25.
But on Wednesday, the CFL said the pandemic and uncertainty that exists has forced the game to be cancelled.
“The only thing deeper than our regret is our resolve to return to Atlantic Canada. 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,” Ambrosie said.
The league will be reaching out to fans directly who purchased tickets. The game was a sellout.