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Hub city committee aims to ensure Manitoba sees return on investment from proposed CFL season

The Manitoba government has set up a new volunteer committee to help oversee plans to host the 2020 Canadian Football League season in Winnipeg.

Earlier this week, the league proposed playing a pandemic-shortened 60-game season entirely in Winnipeg. The province of Manitoba committed $2.5 million in funding for the plan.

Ensuring the province sees a return on that investment will be one of the primary purposes of the new committee, which the province announced Friday. 

The funding offer is dependent on public health officers signing off on the plan to make Winnipeg the hub city for the abbreviated 15-week season.

But whether the season will happen at all is still in question. The CFL’s proposal depends on a collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players for the shortened season.

The league has also asked for $42.5 million in support from the federal government, but on Wednesday, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said Sport Canada “does not provide funding for profit-independent leagues or those outside of Football Canada’s mandate.”

On Twitter, he later said that “we are in fact in discussion with the CFL.”

The new hub city committee has been tasked with fostering community engagement and providing community oversight and support to the CFL and the Winnipeg Football Club during the season, if it goes ahead, the province said in a news release Friday.

“The committee will not be responsible for developing public health and safety protocols, which will continue to be created and enforced by public health officials,” the province said in its release.

It will include 10 volunteer members from the community, including representatives from the local sports, business, academic, and health-care sectors. 

Brock Bulbuck, executive chair of Boyd Group Services Inc., will serve as chair of the committee. 

Other members include David Asper, acting dean of the faculty of law at the University of Manitoba; Obby Khan, a former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman and owner of the city’s Shawarma Khan restaurants; Payworks co-founder and CEO Barb Gamey; and Paul Robson, a former Blue Bombers general manager and former chair of the CFL.

The provincial government expects the season to generate $45 million in business sales, $4.5 million in direct tax and approximately $4 million in hotel stays, and to support 600 jobs.

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