Professional sports leagues around the world have been forced to think outside the box in order to start or resume their coronavirus pandemic-interrupted seasons, and the newest idea from the Canadian Football League is certainly out of the box.
Absurd might be a better way to describe it.
In an effort to find a way back onto the gridiron this year, the league has reportedly floated a proposal to the CFL Players’ Association that includes a six-game regular season and an expanded eight-team playoff.
The proposed plan would also include a shorter training camp, prorated salaries and bigger practice rosters, and the games would most likely be played in a hub city.
As the @cfl & @cflpa work through clarifications of the league’s initial framework via email, I’m hearing one of the options being discussed is a 6-game shortened season, with an expanded 8-team playoff format. Rationale is to keep the bubble as efficient as possible. @CFLonTSN
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) July 5, 2020
Winnipeg and Regina have been talked about the most as potential CFL hub cities but the league has not confirmed anything at this point. It would also have to collaborate with provincial and federal public health officials before moving ahead with a concrete hub city plan, with continuous testing as a vital component.
The hub city idea, without any fans in attendance, makes a lot of sense even for a league that desperately requires ticket revenue to stay afloat because it significantly cuts down on travel costs, as well as travel time, and, most importantly, keeps everyone in a bubble.
The absurdity of this plan lies in the number of regular-season games the league is proposing its nine teams play. Six games? Really?
Major League Baseball is endeavouring to play 60 games this year, a little bit more than a third of a normal season. Six games amounts to one-third of a normal CFL season, but it is only six games, negating any possibility that every team would play each other at least once.
But that’s not even the kicker. After just six games, every team but one would make the playoffs. Why even bother holding a regular season, you ask?
Apart from the idea of keeping fans in every city interested in the playoff race, here’s the biggest reason for a short season and expanded playoff. The CFL is holding out hope that come this fall, the number of novel coronavirus cases will have dwindled to a handful here and there and some fans will be allowed to watch the playoff games in their home stadiums.
I’m not saying that won’t happen, but I think it’s probably wishful thinking on the league’s part.
If, and this is still a big if considering the CFL’s financial picture and the unpredictability of COVID-19, the league manages to play out its season, it should employ an eight-game regular season (nearly half of a normal campaign) and allow the top two teams in each division to meet in the East and West finals.
The winners would advance to the Grey Cup and some of the revenue from any games that are played in home stadiums with fans in attendance should be shared with the other teams.
There isn’t a perfect plan out there, but having every team play each other once and making the regular season mean something is much better than what is currently on the negotiating table.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.
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