BCHL approves pay-to-play model for 2020-21 season if fans can’t attend games

The league’s plan B will kick in if a proposal to fill arenas to 25 per cent capacity isn’t approved

If the BCHL isn’t allowed to have fans in the stands when the junior A league starts playing regular season games in December, player fees will help offset lost gate revenue.

The league unveiled ‘plan B’ Friday morning, a pay-to-play model that will kick in if a request to have arenas filled to 25 per cent capacity is not approved by the office of B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. In that scenario, the BCHL will proceed with a shorter schedule and will rely on player fees along with sponsorship and government support to fund the season.

“Our main objective remains to play a season, no matter what, but our original goal of starting in December with 25 per cent capacity in our buildings is in jeopardy,” said chairman of the BCHL board of governors, Graham Fraser. “This new scenario allows us to have a fall-back plan if that does not occur. Even if we end up going with the alternative, we may have the opportunity to introduce fans into the stands later in the season and into the playoffs, which would, in turn, reduce costs for the players and their families.”

The motion for the alternative scenario was passed by the BCHL Board of Governors on a conference call yesterday.

(note: because of a league-wide directive, the Chilliwack Chiefs were unable to comment on the pay-to-play plan)

READ MORE: BCHL teams can start training in September for first league games in December

READ MORE: BCHL approves rule change that moves one step closer to eliminating fighting

The BCHL is still asking for financial assistance from the provincial government, but so far there has been no firm response.

“The fact that we are prepared to play a season without fans does not mean we no longer require financial support from the government,” said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb. “Player fees will give our teams the ability to survive, but our owners are preparing to take a financial hit to ensure we get to play regular season games in 2020-21.

“If anything, this only increases our need for corporate and government support. For the first time in our 60-year league history, we’re asking for players to pay an amount beyond their billet fees. This is solely caused by COVID-19 and we plan on going back to business as usual next season.”

Following viaSPORT BC’s current regulations, the BCHL schedule will involve regional cohorts, meaning teams will be split into groups of four and will play amongst each other, with a 14-day quarantine period needed for a team to rotate into a new group.

For the Chiefs, that’ll mean an extra-heavy dose of the Langley Rivermen, Surrey Eagles and Coquitlam Express.

The financial upside of that arrangement is travel costs will be reduced significantly, with no pricey road trips to the Interior or Vancouver Island.

“Our number one goal over the past six months has been to get our players back on the ice.” said BCHL executive director Steven Cocker. “The board believes we presented a plan to safely have fans in the building and that remains our goal. In case the government does not allow for it, the league office and all 18 teams will work diligently to find ways to reduce player fees by way of funding and sponsorship.

“At the end of the day, we want to do right by our players, teams, our league and our fans and that means having a 2020-21 season.”

The Chiefs are hoping to offset player fees by creating new revenue streams, such as having businesses ‘adopt a player.’

The team opens its exhibition schedule Oct. 2 on the road at Surrey and host the Eagles Oct. 4.


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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