CFL, Riders gear up to start season on August 5

The Saskatchewan Roughriders and the CFL are lining up plans to start a shortened season on Aug. 5, announced Craig Reynolds, President and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club Inc.

“In a letter to fans and stakeholders in the Riders, Reynolds said, “Commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced that we are one step closer to CFL Football in 2021 – with a commitment that we will be playing football following a very difficult year without it.

article continues below

“Of course, we would have loved to start on time, but with most of Canada in the grips of a third wave being able to start with you in the stands with us would have been incredibly difficult. So, we are putting all our energy into a new start date: Thursday August 5th.  

“This means a slightly shorter season at 14 games, and a Grey Cup pushed back to December 12th, but it allows us more time to provide a safer season with stringent health and safety protocols. It also gives provincial governments across the country more time to vaccinate as many Canadians as possible and bring down the COVID infection rates across the board. Most importantly, it allows us time to get the necessary approvals to have you join us, which is necessary for the season to start.

“This virus has been unpredictable from the very beginning, and so there are contingencies in place in case things don’t go as planned, but we are putting everything we have into hitting that August 5th target.

“We already have some positive signs. The football portion of our return-to-play plan has been given the green light by Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shahab. This document took countless hours of planning, poring over health and safety protocols and numerous meetings with government and health officials. Our team worked tirelessly on this project, and I am very proud of where we are.

“This season will be played under rigorous health protocols for both our fans in the stands and for our players both on and off the field. But all of this is done to ensure we can keep everyone safe. Your safety and the safety of our team is our number one priority.

We continue to work with Saskatchewan health officials to confirm the number of fans allowed in stadium during the season and to finalize the safety protocols required for you to join us. We will be following up very soon with those details, including the ticketing process, but protocols like mandatory masks, social distancing and assigned gates with staggered stadium entry can be expected.

The following statement was issued today by Canadian Football League (CFL) Commissioner Randy Ambrosie, in announcing the League’s Return-to-Play plans for the 2021 season:

“We will play CFL football in 2021.

“Our revised target date to start our regular season is August 5. To facilitate a 14-game season, for our players, fans and partners, we are re-scheduling the Grey Cup to December 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

“I say ‘target date’ because our plans are subject to the state of COVID-19 across the country. A so-called ‘third wave’ in some provinces is forcing us today to postpone the start of our regular season, which had been scheduled for June 10.

“So, what must be in place for us to kick off on August 5? Two things.

1. The approval of public health officials across the country of our plans for protecting the health of our players, coaches, and ultimately our fans, so a 2021 season is safe.

2. Permission from governments to host a significant number of fans in the stands, in a significant number of venues at the start of the season, and in the rest of our venues soon after that, so a 2021 season is financially tenable for our clubs.

“The CFL depends on ticket revenue more than other professional sports leagues in North America. Fans in the stands account for at least half of our revenue. Our clubs already stand to suffer substantial financial losses this year. Playing without fans in the stands would dramatically increase those losses.

“We are prepared to be creative as well as prudent. For example, if we are unable to host fans in the East because of COVID-19, we are prepared to start play in the West, provided eastern teams can return to their home provinces, and play in front of their fans, later in the season.

“And we have contingency plans in place, should factors beyond our control delay the start of our season beyond August 5. The bottom line is we are optimistic we will have a season in 2021, culminating in a great Grey Cup.

“Everyone who loves the CFL can help us and their communities. Please, when it is your turn, get vaccinated. And please follow your local public health guidelines on measures including wearing a mask and social distancing.

“To our players, fans and partners: thank you for your patience as well as your passion for our game. Thank you all the frontline workers out there for all they’re doing for all of us. We look forward to keeping you posted on our progress and to kicking off another great season of CFL football on August 5.”