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CFL could be on hold for 2021 while other Canadian leagues play-on

New CFL balls are photographed at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium in Winnipeg Thursday, May 24, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

EDMONTON (CityNews) – The CFL was forced to punt its return to 2021 after failing to kickoff in 2020 due to the pandemic.

After being turned down for a $30 million interest-free loan by the federal government last year, sources say they’ve been rejected again.

The 2021 season has been put in doubt, even as Canadian soccer returns to the pitch next month.

“You’re telling me that leagues like the CPL aren’t also gate driven, you’re telling me they have more money to play? I understand payroll and all of that but that’s where a lot of the frustration begins,” said Will Nault with Sportsnet 960 The FAN. “Everybody else is playing, what are we doing, why aren’t we playing yet?”

While some point to the federal government bailout of Air Canada as a reason to prop up the CFL, one economist says doing so is an entirely different ball game.

“If the federal government is giving money for that, then can you imagine what the lineup will look like if every art gallery, every orchestra, every public civic amenity jumping in line asking if they can get it ‘when are we going to get some?’” asked Moshe Lander, sports economist at Concordia University.

Sitting on the sidelines for 2020, the league reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million. Part of that due to the league finances being ticket-driven, but that should be less of an issue in 2021, with vaccines ramping up.

“If ever there was a way to get 20-thousand fans in while socially distancing safely, you could put them into McMahon, into Commonwealth, into BC Place, its doable,” added Lander.

The league generated some buzz earlier this year with a unique partnership, but that momentum has already deflated.

“I thought they had that with the XFL news. Since that’s kind of died down and we don’t really have many details on that, it hasn’t been enough to keep the conversation going,” said Nault.

READ MORE: CFL, XFL discussing potential partnership to ‘grow the game of football’

And the worry becomes, what would a two-year absence mean for the next generation of fans?

“For a fan who is 18, 19, 20, 21 and you go absent for two years, it’s pretty easy for an individual of that age to forget about you, if you’re not in the news cycle for two years,” explained Nault.

As things stand, the CFL still has a full season slated to begin June 10th.

RELATED: CFL dismisses report that its 2021, ’22 campaigns might be cancelled

A postponement remains possible given current health measures and vaccine rates. But even if the season were to be sacked, experts say, don’t expect the lights to go out on the CFL after 63 seasons.

“The fact is that the business model on a certain level works,” explained Lander. “They have corporate sponsors, they have a TV deal. Those things aren’t going away.”