With COVID-19 protocols and health measures in place, CPL action will begin on Aug. 13, with a rematch of Finals 2019 between Forge FC and Cavalry FC – almost 300 days since Forge captured the North Star Shield to cap off Year 1 of the CPL.
While rumours swirled all summer of a possible CPL return, Commissioner David Clanachan told media on Wednesday that league officials were busy behind the scenes preparing for a single-site season.
More importantly, Clanachan saw an opportunity to emphasize health and safety protocols by taking its time.
“The key here was that we weren’t rushed, we didn’t have to rush back into it because we hadn’t started our season,” Clanachan explained. “That’s the key thing, a lot of the other leagues are trying to finish seasons that they’d already started. We hadn’t begun, so we were fortunate in the sense that we were able to take our time at it and go at it in a methodical approach, but doing it in the appropriate manner.
“We spent a lot of time on our health and safety protocols… people would say ‘what took so long,’ this is one of the things that we did and we wanted to make sure we did it exactly right.”
The Island Games explained.
This includes a multi-test schedule, which has already started. Clanachan revealed every entry in the first batch of COVID-19 testing with CPL players and coaches came back negative, with more tests planned before players land in P.E.I.
“All of our players and coaches started last weekend on this, so they have to self-quarantine and isolate here in their home markets first for 14 days, which we will do .So you can’t put economics in front of health, right? We had to go through this and make sure it was right,” Clanachan said.
As for P.E.I., Clanachan insists the province is the “safest part of Canada,” adding the area around Alumni Field at UPEI where the games will take place will be a “bubble within” the existing Maritime bubble introduced after reduced COVID-19 infection rates in the province and in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Launching later in the summer has led to “strong dialogue,” according to Clanachan, with other leagues already operating.
“You see what some of the hurdles the leagues faced behind the scenes and what the product looked like on the pitch,” Clanachan said. “There were a number of things; how stadiums were set up, player communication, what is on people’s minds. You have to take everything into account.
“You can see how things have changed since sports have come on board – those are great learnings.”
As for the matches themselves, Clanachan said OneSoccer is working on “innovative” and modern broadcasting techniques, and that two linear Canadian networks are currently in talks to air “quite a number” of matches.
“There is an investment required here. The great news is we have great partners, and fans that have stuck through this,” Clanachan said. “We waited a long time to wait to be at the level we are now. We are all beholden to keeping it in place.”
When asked if socially-distanced fans will be allowed to watch matches on the ground in Charlottetown, Clanachan said chances were slim. But, on a long-awaited day of good CPL news, the commissioner couldn’t help but leave some hope.
“Well, 99 per cent sure we won’t allow fans. But you never know me, I’m the eternal optimist. We’ll keep with our plans right now, but that may change.”