The Canadian Football League canceled its 2020 season Monday because of the pandemic, marking the first year since 1919 the Grey Cup won’t be awarded. The move by the nine-team league dashed hopes of a shortened season in the hub city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the decision was in the “best long-term interests” of the league. "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,” he said in a statement. The CFL, unlike other major leagues in North America, does not have the luxury of a billion-dollar television contract. While its deal with TSN has become more lucrative over the years, the CFL remains a gate-driven league, a major problem when fans aren’t allowed in the stands.
The CFL said last month it had chosen Winnipeg as a hub city for a regular season with six games, followed by an eight-team playoff. No fans were to attend. But the league was unable to secure financing from the federal government after requesting an interest-free loan of $23.7 million on Aug. 3 to stage an abbreviated 2020 campaign, the AP reports. The CFL said the federal government suggested the league pursue a commercial loan, which would be partially backed by Ottawa. Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault said the government tried to work with the CFL, helping the league navigate emergency response programs available to businesses across Canada. "Although the league was able to benefit from some of these programs, its board members ultimately made the decision not to pursue the upcoming season,” he said.