Trudeau says federal officials in talks with CFL about $150M request

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is in discussions with the CFL, which is seeking financial support to help with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

League asking for financial support as pandemic threatens season

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie with the Grey Cup at an event in Ottawa in 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is in discussions with the Canadian Football League, which is seeking financial support to help with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau told reporters Wednesday that support for the league is an "important issue" for the CFL and its fans.

"We are currently looking at how we can support various organizations. We recognize that this is an important issue for the league and for many Canadians and we are continuing our discussions with them," Trudeau said.

"The CFL has approached us about support. We know it's important to them and important for many Canadians and those discussions are ongoing."

The prime minister's comments come a day after The Canadian Press reported that the CFL is seeking up to $150 million in federal assistance.

League commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the proposal involves $30 million now to manage the impact the novel coronavirus outbreak has had on league business and up to another $120 million in the event of a lost 2020 campaign.

Ambrosie said the CFL's long-term future would be in peril if the 2020 season was wiped out.

WATCH | CFL requests federal aid:

CFL seeking financial support from federal government

3 years ago
Duration 3:38
Canadian Football League is requesting up to $150 million in assistance.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the CFL acknowledged its "unique" financial predicament.

"If concerns about large gatherings in stadiums persist, our future itself could be in jeopardy. We are working to meet this challenge with both optimism and pragmatism," the statement says.

The CFL also said it wants to earn any money it receives from the government and eventually pay taxpayers back by using all the tools at its disposal, including "community and public education programs across the country, the use of [its] digital channels, stadiums and broadcasts for advertising and promotion, and tourism initiatives surrounding the Grey Cup and other CFL events."

The league also said as an important piece of Canadian culture, it feels obligated to do anything it can to maintain itself among the uncertainty.

"We hope our next Grey Cup will be one of our most important — a signal to the world that Canada, as we know it and love it, is truly back."

Ambrosie later released a letter to season ticket holders on Wednesday, addressing the matters of federal aid and continued uncertainty regarding the upcoming regular season.

The CFL was founded in 1958 following the merger of two previous leagues, and its iconic Grey Cup championship trophy was first awarded in 1909.

This year's Grey Cup is scheduled for Nov. 22 in Regina. The CFL championship also involves a week of festivities in the host city.

The CFL hasn't given up on staging a 2020 season, but it has postponed the start of training camps, which were to open next month. It has also pushed back the beginning of the regular season — which was scheduled to begin June 11 — to July at the earliest.

However, many provincial governments have said there will be no sports events with large crowds this summer. That was reinforced by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, in a Wednesday briefing.

"For the next while, I cannot see a single chief medical officer of health across this country who's going to say that these mass gatherings are going to be there," Tam said. "Of course we'll evaluate things as we're going along, month by month, but when we say we're easing into it, that's definitely not easing into it.

"So mass gatherings will not be part of our lives for a while."

Some sports leagues have suggested the idea of resuming play without fans, but Ambrosie said that's a scenario that would be hard for the CFL to adopt because gate revenues are vitally important.

There has been no indication yet that the CFL or any of its teams have asked provincial governments for help.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, whose province is home to the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos, said Wednesday he wants the league "to come out of this as a vibrant part of Canada's sports life.

"I've not personally received any communications from the Stamps or the Eskimos, but I'd be happy to reach out to them and see how they're coping through this, because obviously the season this year is going to be at least somewhat compromised."

B.C. Premier John Horgan, an avowed sports fan, said he's open to the idea of subsidies for professional sports because they provide a "tremendous economic stimulus," though he added he has yet to see any such proposals.

"There's positive consequences of having activity, there's negative activity of it stopping," Horgan said Wednesday. "We'll take a close look at everything that comes forward.

"There are other priorities that are certainly higher, but there is a negative economic consequence to not seeing our professional sports underway this summer."

From November: Andrew Harris has historic Grey Cup night:

Grey Cup Wrap: Harris leads Bombers to 1st Grey Cup in nearly 30 years

4 years ago
Duration 2:37
Andrew Harris became the first player to win both Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian.  The defence also came up big in Winnipeg's 33-12 win over Hamilton.

With files from CBC Sports

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