CFL assistance only hope for Renegades

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If the Ottawa Renegades play football in 2006, they will do so with the financial assistance of the Canadian Football League.

That much appears clear as the latest CFL crisis in this city churns towards a conclusion. The fate of the troubled team could be determined by Wednesday, and the best hope for Renegades fans rests with a massive CFL relief effort.

Majority owner Bernie Glieberman is scheduled to meet with commissioner Tom Wright on Monday, and Wright will talk with league governors one day later.

Yesterday, departed Renegades president Lonie Glieberman said he and his father no longer wished to make public comments about the team. Wright is vacationing in the Dominican Republic and returns to Toronto tomorrow.

Ideally, league stakeholders hope a deal can be reached with Glieberman to split operational costs in 2006. The league would then look for an outright buyer by 2007.

There is strong belief that Glieberman is willing to fund a maximum of $3 million in losses, but that won't be enough.

Internally, competing estimates project the club's losses between $2.3 million and $5.8 million in 2006. A Citizen consultation of persons familiar with Renegades finances suggested the losses could be contained to $4.5 million.

It will take roughly $10 million to operate the team. Revenues are more difficult to predict, but a range of $4 million to $6 million is achievable.

Optimistically, CFL teams could float the Renegades for $125,000 apiece this year, but gloomier projections suggest it could take almost triple that.

At the same time, league-generated revenues, expected to be $1.3 million per team, would be distributed to one less partner without the Renegades, which would reap more than $100,000 per team. On the other hand, with an eight-team league, deductions in television agreements and national sponsorships could prove just as costly.

If a funding agreement is reached with Glieberman, it is believed teams would seek to dispatch an emergency fleet of employees to help rebuild the Renegades' skeletal staff.

Chiefly, MRX, the sports consultancy operated by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, would be asked to take charge of Renegades corporate and tickets sales. Athletic therapists, video co-ordinators, equipment managers and others could be asked to assist the Renegades.

The league and its teams would also be expected to reach out to the Ottawa community with a grassroots campaign to buy and sell tickets.

Minus a deal with Glieberman, the primary options include:

  • A decision to fund the team through the season.

  • The beginning of an emergency search for an investor with the understanding that the team may have to fold, or not compete in 2007, unless that person is found.

  • A decision to fold the Renegades.

Just two weeks ago, Wright said the CFL "has been, is today, and will continue to be, committed to football in the capital."

That mantra could face a stern test.

If Ottawa's ownership walks away, the financial burden on the remaining teams would be immense, and few believe the CFL could afford to save Ottawa. For a second time in two years, Wright's attempts to downplay the Renegades' troubles has raised ire among other CFL governors.

Some stakeholders believe the commissioner underestimated the fragility of Ottawa's franchise, and there is evidence that a quiet search for new investors began only recently.

Putting new ownership in place before the season would represent a miracle, while collapsing the Renegades would have severe repercussions for the league.

Foremost, it would cap the CFL at eight teams. It would also kill all aspirations of expansion to Halifax and leave the league with no margin to lose another team.

More urgently, the league would have to draw up an eight-team schedule, and teams would have to reconfigure their 2006 travel plans.

Though that would be difficult, there remains enough time to do both.

Given the circumstances, there are bigger concerns.

Here is the latest from the Globe, with the same basic info. The showdown is Monday and Tuesday.

CFL commissioner schedules meeting with Glieberman

Canadian Football League commissioner Tom Wright will meet with Ottawa Renegades majority owner Bernie Glieberman on Monday, a session that could go a long way to determining the future of the troubled franchise.

The Renegades have been in limbo for weeks as Glieberman and minority partner Bill Smith struggle with how to deal with losses for the coming season, anticipated at between $4.5-million and $6-million.

Smith said this week he has no appetite to invest further in the club, apparently leaving it to Glieberman to operate the club or walk away from it, after taking it over last spring.

If he walks, it will be up to the league to find a buyer for the team or operate it itself this coming season. It's also possible that Glieberman may ask the league to absorb a share of the losses for 2006 as a way of keeping the franchise afloat for another season.

The Renegades' majority owner has laid low this week. He could not be reached by The Globe and Mail.

Monday's meeting will be followed by a board of governors telephone conference call on Tuesday, at which time the league's eight other clubs are expected to be briefed on the various options regarding the Ottawa franchise.

In preparation for that meeting, league staff are spending this weekend developing models to illustrate how operating the Renegades or folding them would affect such things as league revenue distributions to clubs, sponsorship and television.

Wright, who is vacationing in the Dominican Republic, is expected back in Toronto tomorrow.

The commissioner and his staff are expected to push for Ottawa to be operated this season, whether Glieberman remains involved or not. League governors, however, are less likely to want to save the franchise at any cost.

Among the ideas under consideration is hiring the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' marketing department to jump-start sales in Ottawa. In addition, Jim Grundy, the league's former senior vice-president of business operations, who was fired by Wright in January, has been approached about going to Ottawa on an interim basis if it's determined the franchise can be saved under Glieberman.

Grundy was involved in stabilizing the Toronto Argonauts and the Tiger-Cats when both those franchises went broke during the 2003 season.

A decision whether to operate Ottawa this season would have to be made within the next two to three weeks at the very latest in order to rework the schedule in time for the opening of the season in the third week of June.

Gades are going on Life Support, good.