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CPL, CEBL join Canadian Football League in requesting federal aid to endure pandemic

The Canadian Premier League and the Canadian Elite Basketball League have joined the Canadian Football League in asking the federal government for financial aid in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBC Sports has confirmed the CPL is asking the government for $15 million while the CEBL is asking for $5 million.

“No revenue means no jobs for our 400 full-time staff and another 1,600 part-time workers that we employ throughout our season,” the CPL said in an email to CBC Sports.

“We are facing a very significant and unforeseen revenue shortfall created by the global pandemic and have approached the federal government about financial assistance.”

Earlier Wednesday, the CFL confirmed it was seeking up to $150 million in federal assistance — $30 million immediately to manage the impact the pandemic has had on league business and up to another $120 million in the event of a lost 2020 campaign.

WATCH | CFL requests federal aid:

Canadian Football League is requesting up to $150 million in assistance. 3:38

The eight-team CPL was preparing for its second season, set to begin on April 11. The season has been postponed indefinitely.

Now, the CPL is asking for what it calls “short-term financing” while they contemplate what a return to play might look like.

“The CPL is working on any and all scenarios as it relates to playing a season in 2020,” the CPL said.

“The Canadian Premier League fully supports the measures being taken by all levels of government and related health agencies to combat the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, due to the measures taken that don’t allow us to play matches right now, we have no revenue as a league.”

Hamilton Forge FC players enter the stands to celebrate with fans following their Canadian Premier League final victory against the Calgary Cavalry FC in 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

In an interview two weeks ago, CPL commissioner David Clanachan said the league wasn’t going anywhere.

“We see a bigger purpose here. We’re here to stay,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it goes back to one thing. We said this was going to be a league for Canadians, by Canadians and we’ve stayed true to that.”

The eight teams include Cavalry FC (Calgary), FC Edmonton, Forge FC (Hamilton, Ont.), HFX Wanderers (Halifax), Pacific FC (Langford, B.C.), Valour FC (Winnipeg), York 9 FC (York Region, Ont.) and expansion Atlético Ottawa.

‘I don’t think it’s dire’

As for the CEBL, commissioner Mike Morreale confirmed to CBC Sports they asked the government more than a week ago for a loan of $5 million.

“That covers the cost of operating the business for a year, not including the players and basketball side,” Morreale said.

“That loan helps us bridge the gap if there’s no season.”

Morreale says because of their operating model, they were unable to access any of the funding through current government programs.

“We looked at all the programs available to us and based on how we’re set up as an organization corporately, we just fall outside of the thresholds in terms of loans for small business,” he said.

Fans cheer on the Saskatchewan Rattlers, who won the first Canadian Elite Basketball League in August. “We’ve been able to start a brand new league in a country that’s pretty darn big and do it successfully,” says league CEO and commissioner Mike Morreale. (Submitted by CEBL)

In mid-April the CEBL announced the beginning of its season, set to start in May, had been postponed until at least June. Morreale says they’ll continue to update when the season might start on a month-by-month basis.

Hopes were high heading into the sophomore season of the CEBL — during the offseason, the league announced the addition of the Ottawa BlackJacks. The seven-team league — with Hamilton, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Guelph, Ont., Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, B.C.) and St. Catharines, Ont. (Niagara River Lions) — competes with 70 per cent of the 10-player rosters made up of Canadians.

“I don’t think it’s dire. It’s about access to funds. We run a business that’s still entrepreneurial in nature,” Morreale said.

“When you’re asking for money at a time when there are so many other things that are more important, I can understand people’s feelings and feeling uncomfortable about it.”

Morreale says the league had its first meeting with government officials on Tuesday and felt optimistic about how the conversation went.

“We needed to get in front of the proper people to make them aware of where we’re at,” he said. “It’s not about playing basketball. It’s about keeping our operation and all our offices open. We employ a lot of people.”

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