Alberta premier Jason Kenney eyes full-capacity CFL games this summer

Alberta’s premier is expressing hope for full capacity crowds at CFL games this summer.

Jason Kenney says the Edmonton Football Team and Calgary Stampeders could sell as many seats as possible in their outdoor stadiums if certain targets are met under the province’s reopening plan. The province’s plan calls for all restrictions to be lifted two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans aged 12 or over have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine with numbers of cases declining as well.

“As long as we hit those targets, which we anticipate doing by the beginning of July, it will be full capacity,” Kenney said.

Kenney’s comments were readily welcomed by the Stampeders.

“The Calgary Stampeders are encouraged by today’s announcement by the Province of Alberta on an ‘Open For Summer’ program and three-phase plan to ease COVID-related protocols heading into the summer months,” the team said in a statement. “The football team has been in contact with the province throughout the pandemic and will work closely with health officials on plans for the safe return of fans to McMahon Stadium for the 2021 season.”

The Edmonton Football Club didn’t immediately have comment on Kenney’s statement.

WATCH | CFL planning December Grey Cup:

Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie joined Suhana Meharchand on CBC News Network to discuss the league’s plans to play a 14-game season starting on August 5, with the Grey Cup game being played in Hamilton on December 12. 6:50

The five other provinces with CFL teams have not yet specified when full capacity crowds will be allowed to return.

The CFL is aiming to start its 2021 season on Aug. 5, delaying the start from June because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league cancelled its 2020 campaign due to the novel coronavirus.

The league still has many hurdles to clear to get off the ground, including having return-to-play protocols approved by all six provinces and the Public Health Agency of Canada. There’s also the matter of the CFL and CFL Players’ Association reaching an agreement on an amended collective bargaining agreement.

The CFL is a gate-driven league and doesn’t enjoy nearly the same revenue from television as other North American pro leagues, which have played with limited or no crowds. Last month when the league announced it was pushing back the start of the ’21 season from June to August, it stated it would require a “significant’ number of fans in stadiums when play did resume.

“We have a business model that’s far more reliant on fans in the stands than other leagues,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said last month.

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