August 9, 2020

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Rogers Cup a casualty as Quebec government extends shutdown

Most already thought the Coupe Rogers, scheduled for Aug. 7-16, 2020, was in serious trouble because of the continued lockdown on sporting and cultural events in Quebec.

On Saturday, the cancellation was official.

The previous day (anything but a Good Friday), the Quebec government officially called for the shutdown of all festivals and public sporting and cultural events in Quebec to be extended through Aug. 31, 2020.

The announcement was made by the Tourism, Cultural and Communications, and Education ministers.

The order was made to continue the current guidelines about social distance for a prolonged period.

Most already thought the Coupe Rogers, scheduled for Aug. 7-16, 2020, was in serious trouble because of the continued battle against the COVID-19 virus and the strong measures in place in Quebec.

But on Friday (anything but a Good Friday), the Quebec government officially called for the shutdown of all festivals and public sporting and cultural events in Quebec to be extended through Aug. 31, 2020.

The announcement was made by the Tourism, Cultural and Communications, and Education ministers.

The order was made to continue the current guidelines about social distance for a prolonged period.

“Our priority remains to protect the health of the population. It has become obvious that pubic sporting events will not be able to take place this summer. … I’m convinced that (the organizations) understand that the current context justifies such a decision,” education minister Isabelle Charest said.

A twist came late Friday as the Montreal Impact soccer team said in a statement that, contrary to the announcement and official statements, the decree did not affect professional sports.

“The Montreal Impact has been made aware this afternoon of the government of Quebec’s request to cancel all events scheduled until August 31, 2020. However, the Ministry of Tourism specified that this request is not addressed to professional sports leagues. Our return to play and the resumption of activities for the 2020 season will be dictated by MLS, along with public health authorities. The Impact continues to monitor the situation very closely daily, in order to protect the health of its supporters, players, staff, and partners.”

But even the MLS didn’t quite have it right, as there is a pretty big caveat to that: per La Presse, the ban on gatherings of more than 250 would stand. Which would obviously preclude a regular type of sporting event – and the lack of significant television rights revenue for teams in Montreal would make the notion of holding a “closed door” match or game unworkable.

In fact, the government requires these sporting events to apply to be able to host them, and provide evidence that they can be held and still adhere to the currently-existing health guidelines, which include social distancing. 

So, as Coupe Rogers tournament director Eugène Lapierre told La Presse Friday evening, the tournament won’t be held on the scheduled dates.

Lapierre told La Presse that it would be “very difficult” to postpone the holding of the event to the fall, with the previous postponement of the French Open, along with the weather challenges later in the fall.

The statement from the WTA, which arrived Saturday afternoon, indicated they didn’t plan any other decisions until May.

“As it currently stands, the WTA Tour is suspended through July 12. We will continue to work with our tournament partners in evaluating when we will be able to get back on the court. We do not foresee any further decisions until next month.”

Aug. 6-15 2021 the new dates

The WTA Tour was set to hit Montreal this summer, while the ATP Tour is to be played in Toronto.

Lapierre issued an initial statement very quickly, in the wake of this announcement. To put it in a timeline context, the statement was rushed out – seemingly well before Tennis Canada was able to fully clarify the situation.

“We understand the decision coming from the Government of Quebec who has to consider the health and safety of the Quebec population. Our priority in the management of this crisis has always been to ensure the safety and well-being of our players, fans, volunteers, partners and employees and therefore our decisions will reflect this. We hope that our discussions with the WTA will allow us to make an official announcement on the status of the Rogers Cup by tomorrow.”

Lapierre’s comments to La Presse confirm that the event, which annually draws 200,000 or more fans to the Jarry Park complex during the week, is cancelled.

The next question: will Ontario follow suit?

Toronto Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale told Open Court Friday they’re in evaluation mode.

‘We, like the world, are evaluating everything one day at a time. The environment is changing by the minute. The health and safety of our players, fans, partners and staff is priority No. 1 as we go through the process,” Hale said. 

The official confirmation of the Coupe Rogers Cup cancellation creates a potentially interesting conflict in the unlikely event that the Toronto version does take place.

The Coupe Rogers also announced that the women will be in Montreal for the dates next August. The Montreal and Toronto venues alternate the men’s and women’s events. So it appears they will simply skip a year and, going forward, will be holding the women’s tournament in Montreal in odd years instead of even years.

If the Rogers Cup in Toronto somehow goes ahead, it would host the men two years in a row. Again, that’s unlikely to occur. But it’s not off the table yet. 

The difference in attendance between the men’s and women’s events in Montreal is not major. In Toronto, conversely, the men’s events attracts a much bigger crowd even though, last year, the attendance got a huge boost with the victory by hometown Toronto heroine Bianca Andreescu.