Life in 2020 is decidedly different than anyone could have imagined, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all facets, including the sports world. One sport in particular – football – is starting to look like it might not be played at all this year.
Though a small sample size, voters in my online poll were decisive in predicting that there would be no football in Canada this year.
One-by-one, football leagues have been cancelling their respective seasons. Locally, it began with the shuttering of the youth recreational league in Alexandria and Cornwall, which usually sees spring games featuring Wildcats and Gaels teams for children ages 7 through 15.
Overlapping that, the Cornwall Wildcats Football Club also fields a varsity squad (ages 16-19). This group competes in the Ontario-wide OFC. Its season was initially delayed and then cancelled earlier this summer.
The Wildcats also put together competitive youth teams that traditionally compete each summer/fall in the Ottawa-based NCAFA league. There was some optimism that play would happen in the fall, with some sort of modified schedule or tournament action, but that was nixed last week, when word came down that the 2020 season was officially cancelled.
University football across the country has also been cancelled for this fall in three of four leagues (Ontario, Canada West, and Atlantic). To date, only Quebec schools are currently scheduled to play (or try to). Teams in that province recently had athletes return to campuses for training through August. There will be no national championship Vanier Cup this year, regardless of what Quebec does.
The prospect of high school football this fall sits somewhere between slim and none. Based on the Ford government plan for re-opening schools, sports will be limited in scope, restricted to being within each school, with strict physical distancing requirements. Further, field trips are prohibited (so presumably that would mean no busing for inter-school sports as well). Subject to a sudden improvement in the COVID-19 situation and a further loosening of health regulations, there will be no high school football, at least in Ontario.
Even from an entertainment perspective, we may not get to see the gridiron game. The Canadian Football League has announced that if it plays at all, all games will take place in Winnipeg, though the chances of action happening aren’t great, as the league appears to be mired in financial difficulties.
Meanwhile, in the USA, the National Football League continues to experience positive COVID-19 tests from players in training camps. Their plan is to begin play in September, with teams in their regular stadiums, but without spectators.