Scenarios for the 2020 CFL Season

Right now we are well aware of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has brought the sports world (well, most of the world in general) to a screeching halt. The NBA, MLS, and NHL suspended their seasons and the MLB has delayed the start of their season.

CFL Already Postponed

The 2020 CFL season was slated to begin in June, but with public gatherings banned in Calgary until the end of June at the earliest, the season is guaranteed not to start on time. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has said the season will start in July at the earliest. That seems optimistic, even if there is a reduced training camp down to one week of camp and only one exhibition game (which would result in one team not getting an exhibition game).

While Quebec has called for a cancellation of all public events until the end of August, this may not apply to sports teams. The Montreal Impact of the MLS put out a statement saying sports teams should be exempt, which would be good news for the Alouettes and the CFL.

The CFL does not have the ability to host games without fans. The CFL only gets $50 million annually from its deal with TSN. By comparison, the NFL earns approximately $3 billion yearly from its TV deals with FOX, CBS, and NBC. And with its DirectTV deal and others, the total nears $6 billion.

The NBA earns about $2.7 billion from its deal with ESPN, ABC, and Turner Sports. The MLB earns $1.5 billion with its deals, and even the more modest NHL deal with NBC Sports earns them $200 million a year.

Therefore, playing games in empty stadiums is not a good option for the CFL.

Hypothetical Scenarios

Let’s suppose the 2020 CFL season is able to start in July. The schedule would need no change —just pick up at the date the season started and go from there. Hypothetically, let’s say the season starts on July 2. That would be the start of Week 4 and nothing would need to be moved around — from there everything proceeds as normal. Again, this is highly unlikely but until the league office rules it out, it’s possible.

There have been rumblings (not confirmed by any means) of a season starting Labour Day weekend. If this were to happen, there is no question the season would be shortened. Ideas could be a round-robin schedule where every team plays each other once. Should this happen there would be a nine-week regular season which would conclude on November 1. From there, the division semi-finals would follow on the 8th, the division finals on the 15th and the Grey Cup on the 22nd — the date it was originally scheduled for.

An alternative proposal I thought of is a ten-game regular season. Assuming the Labour Day weekend starting date, each team plays every team once except for two teams will play twice in a home-and-home format.

My groupings would be Calgary-Edmonton-BC, Winnipeg-Saskatchewan-Ottawa, and Hamilton-Toronto-Montreal. Therefore, Edmonton would play Calgary and BC twice and each of the other teams once. Assuming the same playoff format, November 22 would be the first weekend of the playoffs, with the division finals coming on the 29th and the Grey Cup December 6.

Adding a couple more games certainly allows for more ticket revenue and more of a normal feeling to the regular season.

Season Cancellation an Option

If there are no public gatherings until the end of August, training camps would obviously not be able to start until the beginning of September. Even a two-week camp and one exhibition game format would put the season’s start back to the end of September. This would likely push the Grey Cup to the first weekend of January under a ten-game regular season, or right before Christmas with eight games.

For the moment, I would say shorten the season. However, I believe there needs to be a drop-dead date. If training camps can’t start by the beginning of September, then the 2020 CFL season needs to be cancelled.

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