A day after Ontario moves to the long-awaited Stage 3 of the provincial COVID-19 reopening plan, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Toronto FC will welcome soccer fans to BMO Field for the first game of the team in Canada in almost a year.
For the first time since September, Toronto FC will face off at their stadium in downtown Orlando City SC at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
According to a statement released by the team on Wednesday afternoon, 7,000 fans made up of frontline health workers, emergency teams and season seat holders will be allowed to attend.
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“It has been a long and difficult time on the road due to pandemic protocols and we have sorely missed the energy and support of our fans at BMO Field,” wrote Bill Manning, president of Toronto FC.
“Our return to Canada has given the team an incredible boost this week and we look forward to an emotional night at BMO Field with our fans on Saturday. “
The statement said the team returned to Canada on Thursday after starting their season at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. In total, four games were played there.
There will be a range of public health measures at BMO Field, including using hand sanitizer and keeping the place cash-free.
According to a statement released Wednesday evening by the office of Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Major League Soccer has not received a National Interest Exemption (NIE) that would provide an exemption from federal quarantine requirements. But he noted that a review is underway.
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“The [NIE] protocol has been used to provide exemptions from the mandatory quarantine requirements for a number of professional sports leagues. In each case, the government has worked closely with provincial and municipal partners to ensure that the leagues have rigorous health protocols in place to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, ”the statement said.
Despite the ongoing review, he noted a slight easing of border restrictions on July 5 allowing fully vaccinated travelers to enter Canada without having to complete a 14-day quarantine. Foreign professional athletes are included in the current rules as long as they have a valid work permit and meet all other requirements, such as COVID-19 testing before and after arrival. Anyone who is not fully vaccinated will need to adhere to the two-week quarantine.
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A spokesperson for Toronto FC was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday evening when asked about the statement from Hajdu’s office.
Under Stage 3 of the Ontario government’s plan to reopen, which takes effect Friday, up to 15,000 spectators or 75% of usual seating capacity are allowed at outdoor sports facilities.
The Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed 550 fully immunized healthcare workers in a May game at Scotiabank Arena as part of the NHL playoffs, but the Toronto FC game on Saturday will be the first major professional league game. in the city after going to step 3.
The Toronto Blue Jays are currently seeking an NIE from the federal government, which is responsible for quarantine and border decisions, to host home games at Rogers Center.
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