It is beginning to look like a CFL season during the COVID-19 pandemic would be a six-game season with eight of the league’s nine teams making the playoffs. A less than ideal situation, but one that could be beneficial to the league for many different reasons.
It was originally speculated to be an eight-game season when the bubble strategy was first being discussed, but that appears to have changed.
“If the CFL does play a shortened season, the most likely scenario is a six-game regular season and an eight-team playoff. There are concerns about how long you can keep players in the bubble,” said Dave Naylor.
On paper, a six-game season sounds too short and not worth it to many, but that might not be the case in reality.
The thing above all else right now is that a six-game season would get the CFL back on the field. For the fans, they would get to watch some football. For the players, they would be able to pocket as much cash as possible. For the league, they would be able to bring in some money as opposed to nothing if there was no season at all.
On the money side of things, the season would almost certainly need to be played in a hub city to work. The only sports in North America that are trying to do something different is the MLB and NASCAR, but that situation is almost entirely different. Paying for the hub city model wouldn’t be cheap for the CFL. The shorter the amount of time they are in the bubble, the easier it will be on the pocketbook.
The CFL and the CFLPA have already prepared their pitch to get some assistance in paying the players during the shortened 2020 season. According to Naylor, the ask is significantly less than the original $150 million the league said they would need a couple of months ago. This money would be going directly to paying players and any other costs that the league would incur with the hub city model.
Assuming the CFL and the CFLPA are able to get the money, they would then quickly have to find a city to serve at the hub for the 2020 season. Things could get moving very quickly in the coming weeks and even days.
Strictly from the fan’s perspective now, having some CFL to watch this season would be fantastic for all of us. Be it a full 18 game season or the likely option of six, football fans have been waiting a long time to see their team back on the field. Six games is not ideal, and no one can make that argument, but if this is what it takes to get football back, count me in. This season is going to feel different, and fans will place an asterisk on the name of the Grey Cup champion, but to me, football is football.
The other thing you will see is the eight-team playoff format. At first, I hated this idea. I thought it would hurt the legitimacy of the league, but then I thought about it more. The way I see it, you are maximizing the number of important games for teams inside the bubble. Sure, a 0-6 team could technically win the Grey Cup, but they would have to win three playoff games to do it.
Ultimately, would you rather see the 0-6 team play the 6-0 team in a meaningless regular-season game that no one can gain anything from, or would you rather have more of the most exciting time of the year? Personally, I would take the playoff games every single time.
The final thing that it would be good for is keeping the 2021 season on time and ready to start at the same time as normal. Would you be able to do it with eight games? Probably, but there are certainly other factors stopping that from happening. One thing is for sure, the CFL does not have the clock on their side right now.
The key thing to remember right now is that none of these changes are going to be permanent. We are living in crazy times right now in case you needed to be reminded, but hey, things are starting to look up for CFL football in the fall, and who isn’t excited about that?