(Reuters) – The Canadian Football League (CFL) has approached the federal government for financial support to see it through the novel coronavirus outbreak that has crippled North American sport, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.
With training camps scheduled to open in May and the first regular season game set for June 11 the CFL, like other North American sport leagues, has been put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nine-team league has been hit hard financially by the pandemic, and according to the Canadian Press is seeking $150 million in federal assistance.
The proposal includes an immediate $30 million injection to manage the impact of the outbreak and up to another $120 million if the entire 2020 season is cancelled.
“The CFL has approached us about support,” Trudeau told reporters during his daily media briefing outside his Ottawa residence. “We know it’s important to them, we know it’s important to many Canadians and those discussions are ongoing.”
The CFL’s championship game, the Grey Cup, is one of Canada’s signature sporting events, a coast-to-coast party that is viewed as a unifying force in a country often divided by language and culture.
The 108th Grey Cup is scheduled for Nov. 22 in Regina, Saskatchewan.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie warned that if the season is cancelled the league’s long-term future would be in jeopardy without a financial lifeline.
Three CFL teams, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Edmonton are community owned.
“I wake up every day reminded how important this game is to Canada,” Ambrosie told the Canadian Press. “How big a part of Canada it’s been for now 107 Grey Cups and the 108th that would be played this year.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, additional reporting Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa. Editing by Toby Davis)