WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is leaving the door open for Winnipeg to be a hub city for the CFL in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked if he'd be concerned about letting CFL players from the harder-hit United States come to Winnipeg for a shortened 2020 season, Pallister said a good health and safety plan could be developed to make it work for the city.
"I'm concerned we'd be dismissive of the possibility of allowing people to come to our province because there are a lot of other people who have COVID when they don't. I'd be concerned about that," Pallister said Tuesday.
"I think as long as the precautionary measures and the self-isolation periods and the other recommendations of our health officer are respected and followed, then I think we're not in an unreasonable position to offer relative safety. And in offering relative safety, if we can then advance our economy and social lives, then that's a good thing."
The league hasn't started its 2020 season, but has said a hub-city possibility is one option for a shortened campaign.
Winnipeg and Regina have been mentioned as hub-city possibilities.
The earliest an abbreviated '20 season will begin is September, but CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has stated a cancelled campaign also remains possible.
Pallister thinks football with no fans in Winnipeg could provide a boost for the province.
"Yes, I do miss my sports. But I don't think there's a day coming very soon where we're going to have the ability to get back in the stands and cheer on the Bombers to the next Grey Cup. I'm realistic about this," Pallister said
"Dr. (Brent) Roussin (Manitoba's chief public health officer) has said it repeatedly — the day of big public gatherings isn't here yet. But that doesn't mean the day of a broadcast, simulcast possibility of watching football should never come. So I think we can draw the distinction here and realize we must maintain safety on the one hand, but we can't let our fears cause us to remove every aspect of our lives."
When asked if his government has talked to the CFL, Pallister was vague.
"I'll say we'll have more to say on that in due course when there's something to say," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2020.