Forge FC Still Without Permission To Train: ‘We’ve Done Everything Possible’
With under two weeks to go until the presumed March 20 date of the still-unconfirmed Canadian Championship Final, reigning Canadian Premier League champions Forge FC are still unable to train after failing to obtain a professional sporting club exception status from health officials.
The Hamilton-based side saw owner Bob Young – who also owns the Hamilton Tiger Cats – pen an open letter to the Canada Soccer Association this weekend, objecting to how unfair of a situation Forge FC has been put in ahead of its prospective domestic cup final against Toronto FC.
The Major League Soccer side has had no issues obtaining its own professional exemption status, with the side even beginning preseason training early on February 17 with the Voyageurs Cup Final in mind. Forge FC, however, has been unable to begin its own preseason camp.
In a response to an article written by Duane Rollins today regarding Bob Young’s open letter regarding the CSA, the official Forge FC Twitter account stated that the club has been working exhaustively to be put on that exemption list since last November, with help from the Canadian Premier League head office.
The pandemic has forced a narrow timeline for the cup final to be played: March 20 falls on the last possible day before the international break, following which the Canadian Championship victor is scheduled to play a two-legged cup tie against Liga MX side Club Leon in the Concacaf Champions League.
With time running out, the Canada Soccer Association still hasn’t made the date or location of the Canadian Championship Final official. It was last November when the governing body stated that the cup final would be delayed to 2021, specifying that it would take place in the first quarter of the year. The presumed cup final date of March 20 falling on the last possible day in that window.
While Forge FC is now quite vocal about the issue, the CSA has not commented on the proposed cup final this month.
Even if Forge FC obtained permission to train today, that means that the club would have less than two weeks to train for the match, while Toronto FC has already been training for several weeks. With Kristian Jack disclosing that the match would be played at BMO Field, it means Forge will also have to step into the Major League Soccer side’s home ground.
It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the 2020 Canadian Championship, which was originally slated to feature twelve teams before being switched to a one-off cup final between the top Canadian MLS side and the CPL champion. With a Voyaguers Cup victor needing to be declared before the Champions League begins in April, there’s the possibility that the Canadian Championship final may actually need to be nixed in a worst case scenario.
The proposed match would be the first time a Canadian Premier League team features in the final against MLS opposition, which is a historic moment in Canadian soccer history – though how it is unfolded certainly puts a damper on the occasion.
The situation also brings forth the larger question on how the reigning champion of Canada’s top flight domestic professional football league has been unable to attain a pro sports exception status to begin training, which is a different conversation entirely – and one that could even be related to the oft-discussed issues of many player salaries falling well under the equivalent of minimum wage.
In any case, the build-up to the proposed 2020 Canadian Championship Final has been a long, arduous road, and it’s one that does not favour Forge FC. While it remains to be seen how or if the cup final will be played, fans can only hope for a more normal season in the months to come.