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Dave Naylor

TSN Football Insider

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The Canadian Football League more than two weeks ago received support from the province of Ontario for its return-to-play protocol, a necessary step for the league to submit its proposal to the Public Health Agency of Canada for a seven-day quarantine for its players and coaches.

Final approval from the province and the three municipalities that are home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa Redblacks and Toronto Argonauts would come at a later date, closer to the scheduled opening of training camps in early July.

Last month, the CFL announced a plan to cut its 2021 regular season from 18 to 14 games, while moving its start date back nearly two months from June 10 to Aug. 5.

The league’s return-to-play protocol does not address the issue of fans in stands.

On that issue, some CFL teams have submitted proposals for fans in stands to their provincial authorities while others – including the three Ontario franchises – have not.

Though Ontario Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod said on Thursday it was “ambitious” to envision fans in stands at CFL games by early August, the CFL has for weeks been working on a schedule that opens with all of its games being played in Western Canada.

Provincial and municipal governments in the West have indicated a greater willingness to open stadiums to fans as COVID-19 case counts come down and more Canadians become vaccinated.

The league has been given no assurance by any province thus far that fans in stands will be permitted.

Provincial governments will likely wait as long as possible before rendering those decisions so that they have access to the most current health information and data.