High school gridirons across much of Manitoba will remain quiet and empty as classes resume this fall — at least for a little while.
The season for high school football is on hold due to COVID-19 and there’s no indication when it might be back.
“Training camps that were scheduled to open on Aug. 24 have been postponed indefinitely until future notice,” a posting on the Winnipeg High School Football League’s website states.
“The WHSFL is now in conversations with each school division and their member teams to determine the future of any resemblance of a 2020 season.”
The league consists of several divisions with a number of teams from outside of the city, including Brandon, Steinbach, Portage la Prairie and even Dryden and Fort Frances in northwestern Ontario.
League commissioner Jeffrey Bannon said if the school divisions determine there is no way that contact football will be played this fall, the league will look at the possibility of running flag football games instead, or holding a regular football season in spring.
Another option might be to have small groups of teams play each other, rather than league-wide competition.
“I want to describe it maybe like a World Cup bracket of soccer, where we have cohorts of, say, four teams playing in little pods and that’s it. That allows us to keep track of contact tracing [if a COVID-19 case surfaces],” Bannon said.
“But right now, we’re waiting on decisions based on what the school divisions tell us.”
Typically, the WHSFL kicks off the first week of September with teams suiting up for practices two weeks prior.
But with COVID-19 making another charge in the province, the league is committed to ensuring the safety of athletes, coaches, support staff, officials and everyone else involved in the game, Bannon said.
“Life is more important than sports, health is more important than sports. We need to see our numbers come down,” he said.
“Getting our kids back to school is the most important thing and we can worry about sports at that time. I think we’re a little ways away from that. We’re going to have to see some drastic improvements in numbers across the province.”
Even if the WHSFL gets approval to play at some point this fall, it might already be too late to get enough teams together.
This past week, the River East Transcona School Division and the St. James Assiniboia School Division announced they would not allow fall sports, Bannon said.
“So right there, we have five teams that won’t be able to play,” he said.
The second week of September is the deadline to make a decision about the season, Bannon said.
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