CFL players will do their part to make a 2021 season happen

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The Canadian Football League Players Association is comfortable with COVID-19 protocols being submitted to provincial governments and is prepared to discuss all other issues that will ensure a safe, 18-game season for 2021.

“Last year the CFL said they wanted to have a season and we worked hard with them to accommodate (changes to the collective bargaining agreement) to create a return to play,” CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay said Monday. “I think right now, the question is, what needs to be done for 2021? The conversation needs to be, let us know what it’s going to take for 2021, which may be different than it was for 2020.”

Last summer the league and players agreed on significant changes to the CBA to accommodate a six-game season to be played in a bubble environment in Winnipeg. However, when the federal government subsequently denied a CFL request for $30 million in financial assistance, league governors voted on Aug. 17 to scrap the season.

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The current CBA runs into the spring of 2022, but it’s likely the document will have to be amended again prior to a 2021 season.

“The accommodations may not be as significant as a six-game hub city model but there still may be accommodations needed,” said Ramsay. “We want to play a season, we told the CFL that and we will work with them to make that happen.”

He said the players’ commitment to a 2021 season was reinforced during the CFLPA annual general meeting, held virtually last weekend.

“It’s clear when we talk to our guys they want to play football. It was evident again at our AGM. So tell us what needs to happen, we’ll quickly evaluate it and have the discussions on our side. We’re prepared to go. Let’s start having those in-depth conversations.”

He said it is the CFLPA’s goal to play a full schedule and he believes the CFL is committed to it as well. But is it realistic?

“I can’t speculate. You don’t know what would make it work or not. How can you guess?”

Ramsay said the health and safety protocol document being submitted to six provincial governments has been informed by the experiences of other pro sports that have already returned to play, and may continue to be altered.

“I think it’s going to be an ongoing conversation. That’s how it happened last year and we’re confident that is what’s going to happen this year. What we do see is all the other sports playing, finding a way to do it.

“So when we look at what the other sports are doing, the one thing that’s been evident in the last 12 months is that things change. That document, even if you were to put a time stamp on it of last week, that’s not to say it isn’t going to change next month or as we get closer to a 2021 season. There has to be a commitment by everyone involved, and I believe that’s the case, that it’s continually updated as we learn more and more about making a safe environment to play football.”

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