Winnipeg has been tentatively chosen as the hub city for a possible 2020 Canadian Football League season, the league announced on Tuesday.
“It’s great and we couldn’t have done it without the province of Manitoba and, more importantly, our citizens that have worked hard to make our province safe,” Winnipeg Blue Bombers CEO Wade Miller said Tuesday.
“We plan on ensuring the health and safety of our players and staff and the community if we undertake this event this year. We’ll work with the health officials and medical experts to do that.”
A lot still has to happen for a shortened season to happen in 2020.
The season was supposed to start in mid-June but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league has been working toward a shortened season, starting in September, with a July 23 (Thursday) deadline to formalize things.
“This is not in any way confirming there will be a CFL season this year,” Miller said.
What it does do is give Winnipeg a chance to start preparing to host the season at IG Field. Up to 900 players and personnel from the league’s nine teams will need to be housed in hotels in the city.
“It was important for the city to be able to get started in making preparations,” Miller said. “It’s a big undertaking, bringing a lot of people in with a lot of logistics involved. It’s important to get started and that’s what we’ll do. A lot of the work had been done already.”
There will also need to be regular COVID-19 testing, with many of the players and personnel coming in from pandemic hot spots in the United States, like Florida, Georgia and Texas.
“There will be strict protocols regarding how players get into the hub city and into the bubble and they’ll be monitored carefully and a bunch of testing done in those initial weeks leading into being in the bubble and practising and isolating in the city, Miller said. “We’re working through those right now and obviously the safety of our community is paramount and we don’t want to jeopardize that.
“We’ve been communicating with the health authorities and getting their feedback and opinion. We’ve been working with the CFL medical committee, which is three doctors across the country, league officials and our players on us, working toward this plan. We’re adjusting it as we go, learning from other leagues around the world as they restart and we’re moving forward.”
Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary all bid to host the CFL season, with the Manitoba government promising $2.5 million in funding Monday. Regina and Calgary also made significant financial commitments.
Winnipeg was chosen by a committee of CFL team presidents representing the clubs that were not involved in the bid process.
Manitoba premier Brian Pallister, who announced the funding proposal, was not available for comment on Tuesday but the provincial government did issue a statement from minister of economic development Ralph Eichler and minister of sport, culture and heritage Cathy Cox to the Sun.
“Manitoba is thrilled to host the CFL in Winnipeg should a shortened 2020 season take place. We are ready to safely serve as the CFL hub city thanks to the hard work of Manitobans and look forward to further details from the league as plans for a 2020 season come together.”
The CFL has asked the federal government for $42.5 million in funding and receiving that money is paramount to there being a season.
If the funding comes through, the league should be able to hold a six-game season, with an expanded post-season between September and December. Funding will be used to pay players and to pay for football operations.
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