Source: CFL would use federal government loan to cover hub, player costs

TORONTO — If successful in securing a $30-million, interest-free loan from the federal government, the CFL would use the money to cover such operating costs as player salaries, COVID-19 testing and hub-city expenses during a shortened 2020 season.

A source with knowledge of the situation told The Canadian Press on Tuesday the league has provided Ottawa with some details regarding its loan request, saying where the CFL expects to use the money.

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The CFL source spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the league nor federal government have divulged details of the loan request.

The CFL did not immediately respond for comment.

The league is making a last-ditch effort to secure financial support from the federal government to stage an abbreviated '20 season. But the assistance won't assure the CFL of prosperity.

The source says the league has said it expects to lose more than $50 million this year.

The CFL says it needs government money for a shortened season as commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated the nine-team circuit collectively lost upwards of $20 million in 2019. And with no football yet this year, franchises have had little opportunity to generate revenue.

The CFL is a gate-driven league, with ticket sales being the primary source of revenue for all of its teams.

The $30-million appeal is a reduction from the $44-million amended requisition the league presented Ottawa last month. In April, the CFL approached the federal government for up to $150 million in assistance due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Ambrosie has stated the earliest an abbreviated season could begin is early next month. But he's also said a cancelled campaign remains a possibility.

This latest request comes after the CFL had exhausted specified loan discussions with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC), both crown corporations.

But the federal government requires more than just cost certainty. On Monday, two sources said it would also need a specified repayment plan as well as details on health-and-safety protocols the CFL would implement to ensure wellness during a shortened season.

If there's a 2020 season, it will be held in Winnipeg, which is the CFL's tentative hub city. The Manitoba government provided $2.5 million with its bid but said it wasn't considering additional financial aid.

Players coming to Canada from the United States — where COVID-19 rates are much higher — would have to be tested and self-isolate before leaving for Winnipeg. Further testing would be done upon their arrival.

The health plan, which has been developed along with Manitoba's chief public health officer, would also require players, coaches and staff to essentially live in a bubble and remain separate from the general public. Games would also be played without fans in the stands.

The CFL continues to meet with the CFL Players' Association about amending the current collective bargaining agreement to allow for an abbreviated season.

The league originally set July 24 as the deadline for CBA amendments. It also wanted an extension of the deal past its 2021 expiry, and both health-and-safety protocols and federal funding to be in place at that time.

That deadline passed without an agreement. But while the CFL has extended the cutoff date, it hasn't publicly announced what that might be.

The CFL's board of governors is slated to meet Thursday. The league's hope is they'll have many of the loan details — if not all — before them by that time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020.

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