The Canadian Football League will not have a champion for the first time since it began in 1958. The CFL decided to cancel its season on Monday, Aug. 17, becoming the latest sports league impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, citing financial difficulties.
The nine-team league previously discussed the possibility of a shortened season to start in September with Winnipeg as its “bubble” city. Though the league made an effort to make the CFL happen in 2020, the government declined the league’s appeal for financial support, according to the league.
CFL cites financial concerns
In a statement released by the league, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said financial losses were the deciding factor in canceling the season.
“Even with additional support, our owners and community-held teams would have had to endure significant financial losses to play in 2020,” Ambrosie said.
Earlier this month, the league requested a $30 million interest-free loan to Ottawa, according to TSN. News broke the deal fell through on Sunday.
“This outcome after months of discussions with government officials is disappointing. But we’re focused now on the long-term future and we will continue to work with the federal and provincial governments in that context.”
In the statement, the league said it relies heavily on a live audience at its games from a revenue perspective. With the uncertainties with the coronavirus, fans were not expected to be allowed in the stands for CFL games. In the United States, professional baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer returned to action but unlike the professional sports in the United States, the CFL cannot rely on massive television contracts to keep the season going.
The NFL has yet to play any games, but the league is planning on starting on time in September.
Ambrosie said an attempt to move forward this season would’ve taken a toll on the future of the CFL without the financial support from Ottawa.
“Without it, the losses would be so large that they would really hamper our ability to bounce back strongly next year and beyond,” Ambrosie said. “The most important thing is the future of our league.”
The league was originally scheduled to start play in June but postponed its season indefinitely because of the coronavirus. The CFL tried to complete a six-game regular season with eight teams advancing to the playoffs in Winnipeg.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats wide receiver Brandon Banks was the league’s most outstanding player in 2019 announced on social media this offseason that he would not play due to safety concerns. He was followed by his teammate and all-star cornerback Delvin Breaux, who said he would do the same.
In the NFL, 67 players decided to opt out of the 2020 season, which canceled its preseason games but is still on track to get started with regular season play at its normally schedule date of Sept. 10.
2020 Grey Cup Odds
There will be no champion this year, but one offshore sportsbook listed its odds to win the 2020 Grey Cup prior to the cancellation of the season with the Tiger-Cats as the favorites to win it all. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers won the Grey Cup last season with a 33-12 win over the Tiger-Cats.
- Hamilton Tiger-Cats +275
- Saskatchewan Roughriders +500
- Winnipeg Blue Bombers +500
- Calgary Stampeders +550
- British Columbia Lions +650
- Edmonton Eskimos +650
- Montreal Alouettes +850
- Toronto Argonauts +850
- Ottawa Redblacks +1200
This will be the first year the Grey Cup will not be awarded since 1919.
Ambrosie said he is looking forward to the teams returning to the field next year.
“Now the time has come to shift our focus to 2021 and beyond,” Ambrosie said. “We will be back. And we will use this time to ensure the CFL comes back stronger than ever.”