CFL unveils its COVID-19 game cancellation policy

TORONTO — The CFL has established a policy should COVID-19 issues force game cancellations this year.

The league didn't stage a 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and teams will resume play with a shortened 14-game regular season that begins Thursday night.

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"Our goal is to ensure we have zero game cancellations due to issues caused by an outbreak of COVID-19 within our football operations," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement. "While this policy spells out what will happen if cancellations do occur, its main purpose is to encourage all of our players to get fully vaccinated in order to minimize the risk to our season and, most importantly, their health and safety."

According to the policy, if a game is cancelled due to COVID-19 issues and can't be rescheduled, the club suffering from the COVID-19 issues will forfeit a 1-0 loss. If both squads have COVID-19 issues, each will forfeit the game and be assigned losses.

In either scenario, if a team can prove at least 85 per cent of its players under contract have been vaccinated, at least once, the players will receive their salary for the cancelled game. If that figure falls below 85 per cent, players won't be paid.

It was not clear if coaches would still be paid if a team's vaccination rate fell below 85 per cent as they are not part of the league's collective bargaining agreement it has with players.

The CFL said as of Friday, when teams made their final cuts, 79 per cent of players were fully or partially vaccinated. Three clubs had over 85 per cent of their players vaccinated with the rates of the other six ranging between 67 to 81 per cent.

The CFL Players' Association wasn't immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Last month, the NFL reportedly informed its clubs if a game can't be rescheduled during the 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will forfeit the contest and be credited with a loss. Also, players on both teams won't be paid for the game and the franchise responsible for the cancellation due to unvaccinated players will cover financial losses and could face discipline.

There were COVID-19 outbreaks last season that forced NFL games to be rescheduled but none were cancelled over the 17-week season. This year, the league plans to play its 272-game schedule over 18 weeks.

The CFL added Tuesday its latest COVID-19 testing, from July 15 to 30, showed no positive results from the approximately 6,000 conducted with players, coaches and support staff.

"While these results are encouraging, we simply cannot be lulled into a very false sense of security," Ambrosie said. "Not when Delta and other variants are making their way through parts of Canada, and they have been attacking unvaccinated people in the U.S. and Canada.

"The most important thing everyone can do to protect themselves, and the most important thing our players can do to protect themselves and our season, is to get vaccinated."

The league's policy established other guidelines for cancellation. They include:

- The staging of the game being precluded by a decision from a government health authority.

- A team not having 36 players to dress for the game.

- A team not having individuals available to coach the offence and defence.

- A team doesn't have a certified athletic therapist and sports medicine physician available for a contest.

And Ambrosie can cancel a game at his discretion following consultation with the CFL’s chief medical officers and the players' association.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2021.

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