(The Canadian Press)

CFL to continue discussions with federal government about financial assistance

The CFL sent the federal government the $30-million request earlier this week

Discussions continue between the CFL and federal government on a $30-million, interest-free loan that, if granted, would allow the league to stage an abbreviated 2020 season.

The CFL sent the federal government the $30-million request earlier this week, a reduction from the $44-million amended requisition it presented last month. In April, the CFL approached the federal government for up to $150 million in assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFL governors held a videconference Thursday and were expected to receive an update on the situation with Ottawa. But early Thursday evening word came that no decisions have been made to date and the two sides continue to talk.

There was no mention of a deadline for negotiations to be completed in order for a shortened season to be possible. CFL officials say they’re aware fans and players alike want certainty and efforts continue to get to that point.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the earliest an abbreviated season could begin is early next month. But he’s also said a cancelled campaign remains a possibility.

A source with knowledge of the situation told The Canadian Press on Wednesday the CFL’s newest plan calls for approximately $28 million of the loan going towards an abbreviated campaign. The CFL source spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the league nor federal government have divulged details of the loan request.

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams did his part Thursday to try and sway the federal government, particularly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Dear @JustinTrudeau,” he tweeted. “Please help us out and I promise to bring the Grey Cup to you first.”

This is essentially the league’s last-ditch effort to secure financial support from the federal government for an abbreviated ‘20 season. If Ottawa turns down the CFL’s request, the overwhelming sentiment is it will result in no football being played this year.

Ottawa would definitely require cost certainty from the CFL to approve the assistance. But also needed would be a specified repayment plan as well as Health Canada approval of health-and-safety protocols the league would implement during a shortened season.

And the source said it appeared Health Canada was still evaluating the CFL’s health-and-safety protocols Thursday. If the federal agency provided its approval, then the league and Ottawa could actually get down to the actual negotiating of the loan.

If there is an abbreviated season, it will be staged in Winnipeg, the CFL’s tentative hub city.

The source says the league has said it expects to lose between $60 and $80 million with a cancelled season. Even if football is played, the deficit could be as much as $50 million.

The CFL has been steadfast that it needs government money for a shortened season. Ambrosie has stated the nine-team circuit collectively lost upwards of $20 million in 2019.

And with no football so far this year, franchises have had little opportunity to generate revenue. The CFL is a gate-driven league, with ticket sales being the primary source of revenue for all of its teams.

The CFL continues to meet with the CFL Players’ Association about amending the current collective bargaining agreement to allow for an abbreviated season. The league also must finalize a deal with broadcast partner TSN.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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