Canadian Football League cancels 2020 season amid COVID-19 outbreak

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Football League said on Monday it decided to cancel its entire 2020 season after failing to secure financing from the federal government to stage a shortened campaign amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Toronto Argonauts players wait to take the field against the Montreal Alouettes before the first half of their CFL game in Toronto, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The decision by the league, which was originally supposed to kick off in mid-June, follows weeks of working on a plan to salvage a shortened season that would have started in September and been held entirely in Manitoba.

“Our league governors decided today it is in the best long-term interests of the CFL to concentrate on the future,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement.

“We are absolutely committed to 2021, to the future of our league and the pursuit of our vision of a bigger, stronger, more global CFL.”

Unlike large U.S.-based leagues like the National Football League, the CFL’s biggest source of revenue comes from ticket sales rather than TV deals.

Earlier this year Ambrosie warned that if the 2020 season was cancelled, the nine-team league’s long-term future would be in jeopardy without a financial lifeline.

The CFL asked the Canadian federal government for C$30 million ($22.74 million) and said it could need another C$120 million over the next two years if the most negative scenarios come true.

“Even with additional support, our owners and community-held teams would have had to endure significant financial losses to play in 2020,” said Ambrosie said.

“Without it, the losses would be so large that they would really hamper our ability to bounce back strongly next year and beyond. The most important thing is the future of our league.”

The CFL’s championship game is one of Canada’s signature sporting events, a coast-to-coast party that is viewed as a unifying force in a country often divided by language and culture.

This year will mark the first year the CFL’s championship Grey Cup trophy will not be presented since 1919.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge