Hamilton Tiger-Cats, CFL teams face forfeits, lost pay if COVID-19 cancels games

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Published August 3, 2021 at 10:04 pm

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Two days ahead of a season opener featuring the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Canadian Football League has announced a COVID-19 policy that includes the threat of forfeited pay and double defaults.

In a release on Tuesday (Aug. 3), the CFL announced penalties that will apply to any game cancellations caused by COVID-19 issues. The rules will be triggered if a game cannot be played as scheduled because of COVID-19 issues, and if it cannot be rescheduled:

  • If one team is suffering from the COVID-19 issues, they will forfeit the game and be assigned a loss while its’ opponent will be credited with a win by a score of 1-0.
  • If both clubs are suffering from the COVID-19 issues, then both clubs will forfeit the game and be assigned a loss.
  • In either circumstance, the team’s/teams’ players will be paid for the cancelled game if they can prove that 85 per cent of  their players have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • The entire team will not be paid if they fell below the 85 per cent threshold at the time a ‘lost game’ was to have originally been played.

“Our goal is to ensure we have zero game cancellations due to issues caused by an outbreak of COVID-19 within our football operations,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie stated.

“While this policy spells out what will happen if cancellations do occur, its main purpose is to encourage all of our players to get fully vaccinated in order to minimize the risk to our season and, most importantly, their health and safety.”

The league administered approximately 6,000 COVID-19 tests to its Tier 1 personnel, which included players, coaches and support staff, between July 15 and the end of the training camp period. Those tests resulted in zero individuals returning a positive test result for COVID-19.

“We simply cannot be lulled into a very false sense of security, not when Delta and other variants are making their way through parts of Canada, and they have been attacking unvaccinated people in the US and Canada,” Ambrosie said.

The CFL did not play in 2020, when there were no vaccines against COVID-19. The  National Football League managed to play a complete regular season, but games were often rescheduled or pushed back by a few days. The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the top tier of U.S. college football, had a delayed start to its season.  

The 85 per cent threshold is the same one being used by the NFL. The NFL says 27 of its 32 teams have reached 85 per cent. 

The CFL says three of its nine teams are at 85 per cent, and 79 per cent of players are partially or fully vaccinated. The other six teams are between 67 and 81 per cent.

The league has also outlined the five grounds for cancelling a game.

  • Having the ability to play superceded by a decision by a government health authority.
  • A team lacking 36 players to dress for the game. Teams can dress 44 this season.
  • A team lacking an individual to coach the offence and another individual to coach the defence.
  • A team lacking a certified athletic therapist and sports medicine physician available for the game.
  • Ambrosie can also cancel a game at his discretion after consulting with the CFL’s chief medical officers and players’ associations.

The Tiger-Cats, who have named Jeremiah Masoli their starting quarterback, face the reigning Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday (8:30 p.m., TSN, AM900 CHML).

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