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Door opening for fan increase for minor-sports?


4 minute read

No surprise that the COVID pandemic has eliminated many high-profile sports in the last 100 days or so, and that promoters are struggling to get back to work. What may be a shock is that many officials tied to low-profile sports see an opportunity to fill the gap with events that normally receive only limited space on the back pages – if they get any media attention at all.

One of those who sees the opening, and welcomes it, is a man intimately connected with university, junior and age-class versions of his sport at all levels.

Enthusiastic comments are part of the Tim Enger personality; he played and coached this game before stepping into administration and ultimately becoming executive director of Football Alberta. It’s a big plus that he tempers his optimism with the basic understanding that the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB and others are sure to draw the bulk of fan and media support as soon as massive problems with border access, real or feared boosts in infection totals and growing disputes between players and ownership are settled. The Canadian Football League cannot be added to this list because there has been no clear indication that any games will be played in 2020.

The timing of Enger’s comments is commendable. So is his understanding that a lot of professional supporters are reluctant to watch unknown amateurs do their thing. “We know that not every game is a thriller,” he conceded. “But most of our games provide a good level of excitement.”

Obviously, the major difficulty right now is tied to coronavirus reduction. Grid schedules will not be settled for quite awhile. “In Alberta (Step 2  of the recovery process), junior teams have permission to practice in cohorts of 50. Basically, that’s an offensive group and a defensive group. They haven’t been approved for larger numbers, so there are no full-team workouts at this point.

“We (Football Alberta) stay in contact with the health minister and Alberta Health Services,” said Enger, happy that his small staff is back at headquarters in the Percy Page Centre after two months of working almost exclusively at home. “There has been no sign of when Tier 3 will go into effect, so all we can do is wait.”

Tentative schedules have been designed. Obviously they’ll be adjusted as necessary.

He anticipates at least a partial junior schedule this season, perhaps starting in August with the Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats and Calgary Colts filling some dates. Clashes with Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams are iffy these days because  provincial rules vary on border access and possible isolation.

“There has been talk of a Manitoba-Saskatchewan connection, with a possible playoff between the two groups. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The Prairie Junior Conference outlook changes radically from high school programs,” he said. They deal with school boards, principals and the ASAA (Alberta Schools Athletic Association.) Their road to competition might be quite a bit longer than ours.”

Already, the University of Alberta decision to give the Golden Bears a year off has negatively affected provincial football. For those concerned that they may be done for good, it’s pleasant to recall what happened when athletic director Dale Schula announced the sport had been chopped in 1991. The Bears alumni stepped up to raise enough money to keep the program alive. Two years later, then-coach Tom Wilkinson – one of Canada’s leading sports heroes, in many opinions — led a drive to raise another $400,000 when tight university economics threatened a final end to Golden Bears football.

Our sports history has value


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