Even Wade Miller admits following Monday’s announcement the province is throwing cash at the Canadian Football League to help promote Winnipeg as a hub city for a shortened 2020 season brought more questions than answers.
But as far the Winnipeg Football Club’s president and CEO is concerned, the effort being made by all stakeholders around the league is enough to suggest they’re on the right track to playing professional three-down football this year.
“I’m very encouraged. We’re working hard with our players and working hard to put all the pieces together to make this work,” Miller told the Free Press in a phone interview. “We have an extremely challenging time in front of us as a league but that’s our one goal: get on the field and do it safely for the players, coaches and community.”
Premier Brian Pallister got the ball rolling Monday when he announced the province would be committing $2.5 million to entice the CFL to choose Winnipeg as it’s home for 2020. Though there is still a strong possibility that the season could be lost owning to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFL is working on a six-game regular season and eight-team playoff format that would begin no earlier than September.
Two other teams are said to be in the mix, with Saskatchewan being one of them.
Miller has been working feverishly behind the scenes to come up with a plan to host the nine-team league in Winnipeg, including working with the province and its top medical professionals. He said the support from the province in crucial not only in strengthening the team’s bid but also the economy.
The province said a recent economic impact analysis estimates approximately 800 participants would result in the equivalent of 55,000 hotel room night stays, which would generate approximately $3.8 million for the provincial economy. It also estimates $45 million in business sales and that $4.5 million in direct tax would be generated.
“It’s great to help our economy, to re-start and help our hotel industry and hospitality industry that’s just been, obviously, one of the hardest impacted sectors in Canada and our province,” Miller said.
As for an economic boost to the WFC’s bottom line, Miller said there would be a small stadium rental fee but dismissed this as simply a venture to recoup lost revenue.
“There would be a stadium rental but it’s not extremely (lucrative). This is about playing football this year,” he said. “We’re putting out best foot forward as a province and we’ll see where it lands.”
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, spoke shortly after Pallister’s announcement and some of the answers he gave regarding testing and safety protocols created some confusion.
While Dr. Roussin said players would not be tested prior to arriving in Winnipeg, Miller said those details were still being worked out. With more than half the players arriving from the U.S., including a significant amount from states such as Florida and Texas where the coronavirus had run amok, many voiced their concerns over whether it was worth it to host such an event.
According to Miller, players will be expected to self-isolate at home first and might also be subjected to testing as well. Players will then self-isolate again when they arrive and will undergo testing in their hotel rooms, requiring a negative result before being allowed to roam within the bubble.
“All of these things are still being worked out,” Miller said. “It’s more questions than answers right now and we’re working through that as we moved forward.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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