The owner of Toronto’s professional basketball and hockey teams will require fans to prove they’ve been vaccinated or provide a negative Covid-19 test before they’re allowed to attend games. 

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., owner of the Toronto Raptors, said the decision is part of an effort “to reopen safely, to permit full capacity events, and to protect against further lockdowns.” 

The rule will apply not only at Scotiabank Arena, where the Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs play, but also at its restaurants and BMO Field, the outdoor stadium that’s home to the city’s Major League Soccer franchise.   

COVID-19 travel restrictions forced the Raptors to play their home games in Tampa’s Amalie Arena last season while the Leafs played to an empty arena against only Canadian opponents. 

Sports teams in Canada’s largest city still aren’t allowed to have full crowds. The Toronto Blue Jays played home games in Florida and Buffalo this year before they were given the right to return to their home city in late July to play in front of maximum crowds of 15,000.

Maple Leaf Sports said the new rule will apply from mid-September. The company is owned by a group of shareholders including Rogers Communications Inc. and BCE Inc., the owners of Canada’s two major sports broadcasting networks. 

Vaccine mandates have become a point of debate in Canada’s election campaign after the government said it would impose new requirements for federal employees, transportation workers and passengers on Canadian air and rail routes.

A reminder BCE also owns BNN Bloomberg through Bell Media