Football fans in Edmonton will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or show proof of a negative test before attending games at Commonwealth Stadium, the Edmonton Elks announced on Monday.
"If a ticket holder can't provide proof of full vaccination, they will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result, collected within 48 hours of the game's scheduled start time," the Elks said in a news release.
Fans 12 and under — who are not currently eligible to be vaccinated — are exempt, it said.
The measures go into effect for the Oct. 15 home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Two other home games are scheduled before then — Sept. 11 against the Calgary Stampeders and Sept. 18 against Winnipeg — but the club felt it was important to give fans, staff and vendors time to get organize, said Chris Presson, Elks president and CEO.
"We're operating a very large vessel here and trying to turn this large vessel around in the Suez Canal takes some time," Presson said Monday.
The Elks said operations and front office staff must be fully vaccinated as well. Team game-day staff, as well as stadium and event staff, will be subject to the same game day requirements as fans, the team said.
There are about 1,600 game-day employees, he said.
"This gives everyone a chance to get done what they need to get done."
The same protocols were announced on Monday by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but will go into effect on Sept. 17.
Before Monday's announcements, the Roughriders and Elks were the only CFL teams without policies requiring fans to produce proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Presson said the Edmonton team has been carefully following provincial public health guidelines since the outset of the pandemic, but said there has been no guidance in the face of mounting cases of COVID-19 throughout the province and the recent outbreak among Elks players.
"We've done this on our own, in collaboration with the city, to say we recognize where were are," he said.
"Certainly, the outbreak with our team was a big push to make us stand up and say we need to create a safer environment for our fans, for our vendors, again for our employees at large. That's why we've done this."
Thirteen Elks players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the team returned from an away game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver last week.
Terms of the collective bargaining agreement with players doesn't permit clubs or make vaccinations mandatory, Presson said.
As of late last week, 83.5 per cent of the team's players and coaches had received at least one dose of vaccine, the Elks said.
The club has been recommending fans wear a mask at the stadium and try to remain physically distant, but those measures are not mandatory. Masks are available at the door for ticket holders who want one.
The Elks announcement comes one week after similar measures were announced by the Oilers Entertainment Group for all hockey games and other events at Rogers Place.
The Rogers Place regulations — that ticket holders provide proof of being fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the event or a negative COVID-19 test done by an approved supplied within 48 hours of the event — take effect on Sept. 28.
That will be the Oilers' first pre-season home game, against the Seattle Kraken.