Regina braces for impact of likely Grey Cup cancellation

Hope for a 2020 Grey Cup in Regina is quickly dwindling as the CFL hints at a season cancellation. 

Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie gave testimony before the House of Commons finance committee Thursday.

He admitted for the first time that the most likely scenario for the CFL is a cancelled 2020 season, with the best-case scenario being a significantly shorter season. 

He’s previously asked the federal government for up to $150 million in assistance, to deal with the effect of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown on the league.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said a cancelled season would have a significant financial impact not just on the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but on the entire city, with Regina scheduled to host the Grey Cup this November.

A cancellation would hit the city’s service industry, including hotels, restaurants and bars, he said. 

“Every professional team in the world has got a problem with the pandemic and it’s causing disruptions everywhere,” he said.

“So I’m not surprised to hear this, but certainly I’m disappointed.”

Millions at stake for city and province

Fougere said the Grey Cup celebrations have been projected to bring $16 million to the city, and another $25 million to the province. 

“We’ll wait and see what happens,” said Fougere.

“I’m hopeful that we will have some sort of a season this year, and the Grey Cup here. But it doesn’t look very promising.”

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere says he is hoping the Saskatchewan Roughriders will get to play this season, but he is not expecting it to start before September. He spoke to CBC via Zoom on Friday. (CBC)

Tourism Saskatchewan said 2013 Grey Cup celebrations in Regina boosted the provincial economy by $93 million. 

In early March, Tourism Saskatchewan awarded the Roughriders organization a $3-million grant for the 2020 event. The Grey Cup Festival Committee has received half of that so far. 

“There is language in our contract that addresses termination,” said Tourism Saskatchewan CEO Mary Taylor-Ash in an email to CBC.

“If the 2020 Grey Cup Festival is cancelled, due to the public health risks of COVID-19 and large public gatherings, Tourism Saskatchewan will be repaid any monies disbursed.”

The Saskatchewan Roughriders referred the CBC’s request for comment to the CFL, which did not respond prior to deadline.

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