C.F.L. Cancels Season as Pandemic Undermines League Finances

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The Canadian Football League has become the latest casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the C.F.L. canceled its 2020 season after repeated efforts to play an abbreviated schedule fell through. The league said it was now focused on returning in 2021.

“Our league governors decided today that it was in the best long-term interests of the C.F.L. to concentrate on the future,” Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said after the decision was made.

The decision to shut down for the year comes as some college football conferences in the United States, unable to ensure the safety of their players and coaches, have canceled their calendar of games. The N.F.L. is continuing with its plans to play this season, though many teams have said fans will not be in attendance for some or all home games.

With nine teams (three of them publicly owned), the C.F.L. has far fewer resources than the N.F.L. Unlike the N.F.L., which makes most of its money from national television and sponsorship contracts, the C.F.L. is more reliant on ticket sales. The league’s finances were stretched thin when it became clear there would not be fans in the stands because of a ban on large gatherings.

The league tried to find a way to play an abbreviated season starting next month with all games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and players living in an enclosed community to reduce the risk of infection. Though the league, the players’ union and local officials were on board with the plan, the league was unable to acquire public money to help pay for the venture.

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

Amid its search for financial support, the C.F.L., which was formed in 1958 and includes many former N.F.L. players, had delayed the start of its season. Because of the longer winters in Canada, the league typically starts its season in June and finishes in late November with the Grey Cup.

With the cancellation, there will be no Grey Cup winner this year for the first time since World War I.

In the spring, Ambrosie told the House of Commons of Canada that the entire season might have to be canceled. He asked lawmakers for $150 million in government assistance for the C.F.L., the largest football league outside the United States.

While the National Hockey League has resumed its season, playing all of its remaining games in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, the American Hockey League, the main minor league for the N.H.L., with teams in the U.S. and Canada, said in May that it would not finish its season.

In many cases, bans on large gatherings have been stricter in Canada, where much of the country has operated under a prohibition on all large gatherings, as opposed to the United States, where many states rushed to loosen restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

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