Glieberman saying report wasn't true***

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With every passing day and each passing hour, the Renegades just sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire.

Just when things started looking better for the moribund franchise, the fans get another kick in the gut.

Last week, club owner Bernie Glieberman and minority partner Bill Smith met with CFL commissioner Tom Wright for what had been billed a critical meeting at the league’s office in Toronto.

They emerged seemingly in accordance, ready to work together to keep the team alive and kicking.

There was talk about bringing Eric Tillman back into the fold, getting the former GM to take over the football operations.

And there were meetings with Bob Nicholson of the Washington Nationals to see if the former Argos president, who has a solid reputation in the CFL, would be interested in taking over the club’s business operations.

Now nothing seems to be happening.

Even worse, a report yesterday suggested the upcoming Renegades season was in jeopardy and that a meeting next week at the league’s headquarters in Toronto would determine the team’s short-term future, with Glieberman and Smith at odds over who covers losses during the upcoming season.

Glieberman reacted angrily to the report, saying it wasn’t true and that he wasn’t aware of any meeting.

But a spokesman at the CFL office confirmed a meeting would take place next week.

From a public relations perspective, it’s the absolute worst bit of information that could hit the streets at such a tenuous moment for the club.

What should have been a long-bomb touchdown of a good-news week for the Renegades has turned into – yet again – another fumble.

Last week, the owners were talking about holding a media conference to announce Tillman’s return.

At the time, they hoped to have that done as early as tomorrow to send a message to fans and throughout the league that positive moves were taking place.

And not only taking place, but being expedited because, let’s face facts here, training camp is only nine weeks away.

But now there’s this latest delay.

Tillman wants his contract guaranteed by either the Renegades or the league, but neither would make that commitment.

That pretty much says it all.

Nobody would step forward and make a move to ensure that an important step in getting the team off the ropes – in this case, the return of Tillman – would happen.


Two weeks ago, Wright himself spoke of the “sense of urgency” surrounding the Renegades and reaffirmed the league’s stance that the CFL would become a 10-team league with Ottawa as one of those franchises.

A few days later, Glieberman and Smith were at the league office talking with Wright and meeting with candidates to take over the operation’s business side.

So there was reason for hope.

But now, when the very existence of the team is in doubt, Wright is on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Sure, it would have been impossible for the commish to predict when all these things would have blown up.

But it’s just plain bad PR for the leader of a small nine-team league to be away on holiday while one of the circuit’s franchises is going through such a pivotal moment.

It’s giving some of the owners who want Wright to be turfed more ammunition.

Others who have supported Wright in the past might now be willing to listen.

Glieberman, meanwhile, said he’s continuing to work with Smith to figure who’ll pay for what in the upcoming months.

At some point, you’ve just got to wonder if the owner will take a deep breath and say to hell with it, especially with his son, Lonie, now out of the picture.

That’s the scenario owners and executives with the league’s other teams dread most.

As minority owner with a reduced stake in the team, Smith certainly shouldn’t be expected to pick up the tab.


If Glieberman and Smith aren’t interested, that would leave the league and the rest of its teams with few options, and neither are good – finance the Renegades until (if might be a better word) new ownership is found, or fold the team and blow up the 2006 schedule.

It’s a bleak picture.

It’s not fair to the fans who have already endured this agony with the Rough Riders a decade ago.

It’s not fair to the players who thought they’d have a spot to hang their hats and earn a living this summer.

So the wheels just keep on spinning, and the mud just keeps getting thicker.

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If the Ottawa Renegades operate for the 2006 Canadian Football League season, they would likely have to do so without the support of minority owner Bill Smith.

Smith, who became a partner with Bernie Glieberman last spring in a deal hatched just before training camp, is expected to resolve his interest in the club within days. And though he has been with the franchise since its inception as one of its founding partners, Smith doesn't sound ready to answer Glieberman's call for a financial commitment for the coming season.

"At this point, I'm not going to commit anything going forward," Smith said. "I have to return a call to Bernie and give him some answers from some of the conversations we've had. I have some personal and business decisions to make in a very serious timeline. I'm going to be clearer in the very near future where I'm going."

Glieberman became the 51-per-cent owner of the Renegades last spring in a deal in which he agreed to cover the club's losses for 2005, which amounted to $3.7-million. With the franchise gutted in terms of infrastructure and public confidence at an historic low, those losses are expected to be significantly higher.

Smith said he agreed to let Glieberman operate the franchise last season, but insisted he needed to see progress in order to pony up for 2006. At this point, all he sees is steeper losses.

"I think you've got to be prepared to throw in $5.5-million, maybe $6-million, to get the thing going," Smith said. "That's what I think it needs."

Smith said he has consistently expressed that opinion during the past 10 months when it came to the issue of further investment in the Renegades. But with roughly $4-million in personal losses since the franchise's first season in 2002, he's had trouble finding reasons to extend his losses.

"I'd like to see a management team in place that I was convinced could run the football operation in a responsible fashion and the business operation in a professional manner, both on the marketing and advertising sides," Smith said.

Asked what he thought of the Renegades' operation during the past 10 months, most of which occurred under former president Lonie Glieberman, who resigned two weeks ago, Smith replied, "No comment."

The Globe and Mail did not receive return telephone calls from Bernie Glieberman yesterday.

Smith's apparent direction leaves the Renegades' future in the hands of Glieberman, who is also apparently balking at the anticipated losses. Sources say Glieberman remains interested in trying to rectify things in Ottawa, but not at any cost.

If Glieberman were to walk away, one influential league suggested, the overwhelming likelihood is that the league governors would vote to fold Ottawa and play with eight teams.

Phil Kershaw, the consultant hired by Glieberman last summer to oversee the franchise, believes the majority owner hasn't lost all faith yet.

"If there's a plan that's coherent and makes some sense, he is prepared to move forward on the plan, but it has to be viable," Kershaw said. "The community wants to get behind this. They just want some evidence that they're heading in the right direction and I don't think that's unreasonable for them to request."

Among the difficulties anticipated with any plan for Ottawa is a lack of infrastructure, which includes everything from business personnel to football equipment and even an equipment manager. In addition, Lonie Glieberman's discount-ticket promotions have made it difficult for another operator to charge fair value for tickets that went for $10 in 2005.

"There's not an economic model that works," a source said. "You can't just go back to the ticket prices from two years ago and expect people to be happy."

It's expected the league may be asked to subsidize some of Glieberman's losses for the coming season in order for him to remain part of the picture. CFL vice-president Brent Scrimshaw said Glieberman spoke yesterday with CFL commissioner Tom Wright, who is on vacation in the Dominican Republic. The two are expected to meet next week, by which time Smith could be completely out of the picture.

"[Wright] has been talking to Bernie every day, which includes today," Scrimshaw said. "There's no question there are concerns related to the state of the club. Is the house on fire right now? No, because [Glieberman and Wright] are still talking."

The CFL distributed an internal memo yesterday aimed at calming fears that Ottawa may be nearing insolvency. Those fears are fuelled by concerns that the league may have to operate the Renegades this season, using up league television and sponsorship money to do so.

Some club officials were surprised by the severity of the Ottawa situation. They said they were of the belief that Glieberman would cover the Renegades' financial losses this coming season. Others insisted they knew last month that the commissioner was growing more anxious over Ottawa's ownership plight and how it could affect the other franchises.

"I'm told [the Renegades] are still signing players and doing business," one club official said. "But you have to ask yourself who's running the show there and for how long?"

Historically, the CFL has been willing to operate a troubled club. It operated two troubled clubs, in Hamilton and Toronto, during the 2003 season. However, those insolvencies occurred in midseason, leaving the league little choice. Pulling the plug on a franchise in March would allow the CFL time to set its schedule for an eight-team league when play begins in June.

The league has considered hiring the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' marketing branch to operate the ticket and sponsorship functions in Ottawa this season. The Tiger-Cats, under owner Bob Young, have become a model in sales for the league and have been taking on sports-marketing clients beyond the CFL team.

"That hasn't been finalized, but I think it's a good idea," a source familiar with the Renegades' situation said. "The club doesn't have any infrastructure, so it would make sense, but it's not final."

this is what Ti-cat owner, Bob Young says on the ticat forum:

I think it'd be a good idea to move the Renegades to a city where CFL will thrive (Quebec City or Halifax)

While I'm not really allowed to talk about a subject that is before the Board of Governors, I am prepared to make the point that Ottawa is a great football town.

The problems with the CFL team in Ottawa is no more the fault of the fans in Ottawa than the problems with the Ticats in recent years were the fault of the fans in Hamilton.

Running a CFL team well (and profitably) is not easy but, as Edmonton has demonstrated for the last 30+ years in a row, it is possible.

Cheers, Bob.

ps. Besides if we move the Renegades to the next best city for a CFL franchise, where would we put the fifth Eastern team?

You move the Rens to either Halifax or Quebec City, then add the fifth team in the other. Problem solved.

This is a mess. The sooner the league deals with it the better. It may be too late to move it on a temporary basis to QC. Leaving two obvious options, either the league running it and hopefully an owner surfaces locally or el foldo.

Maybe the league should run the team this year. Hire Tillman and Nicholson, and guarantee their contracts.

Getting the Ticats marketing branch to do that job for the Renegades is a great idea. I'm sure they'll be able to get the fan base back, and once the crowds return, you'll see potential owners crawling out of the woodwork.

It's too bad that Jeff Hunt, the owner of the OHL's Ottawa 67's, doesn't have CFL level money. When he bought the 67's, they were averaging about 2000 fans per game. They now (and have the last few years) are averaging more than 7000 fans per game. One reason that I am sympathetic to Renegades minority owner Bill Smith is that when they bought the team 4 short years ago, the salary cap was around $2.5 million and the ownership group at that time were given assurance about the league enforcing that cap. Now the salary cap sits at $3.8 million. That is a huge change in 4 years.

Yes it is, because the league as a whole is doing better financially and in addition as we all know the previous cap was not really as being abused by all. It was just an excuse by the Watters regime.
As for Jeff Hunt agree he appears to be well connected in the community and the 67's are run out of the same complex. The offices and infastructure would be in place. He was one of the people mentioned as a potentia franchise owner and he did kick some tires, but the bottom line as you say he did not have the $ and wanted in for next to nothing.

The $2.5 million cap was a joke. When every single team in the CFL is thumbing their nose at the salary cap, then the salary cap is ridiculously low.

The new $3.8 million figure was arrived at by averaging the payrolls of all nine teams. As a result, it is far more realistic. The Renegades may be below this amount, but probably not by much. They should be able to operate at the same level under which they operated last season.

do they really have to use that word?

Agreed Big Dave. Perhaps each Team could help contribute some sort of amount to keep them going until proper owners or a new location can be found.

.........i'm afraid to ask..........