Gliebermen faked us out**

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It would be almost funny if it weren't so sad. The Ottawa Renegades are up for sale. Again.

Just one year after Michigan millionaire Bernie Glieberman purchased what has to be the CFL's unluckiest team, vowing to stick around until he turned it into a winner, the team is back on the block.

We dug back through the archives (we didn't have to go very far) to find what Glieberman told the Sun last July as he settled into his role as majority owner of the Renegades.

He seemed genuinely sorry for his earlier football experience in the nation's capital when he owned the Rough Riders from 1991-93, before pulling up stakes in favour of an expansion team in the U.S.

"We never should have left," Glieberman told the Sun last summer. "The fans here are yearning to support a championship team and that's exactly what we are planning to build."

Somewhere between then and now, that sense of commitment vanished and Glieberman decided he wasn't ready to pour more money into a franchise that by his estimation lost $4 million last year.

A series of emergency meetings involving Glieberman, minority owner Bill Smith and the CFL resolved nothing, and yesterday league commissioner Tom Wright announced that the Renegades are up for sale.

The timing stinks. With roughly eight weeks until training camp is scheduled to open, the chances of pro football in Ottawa this summer are somewhere between zero and nil.

The league says it has formed a committee to identify new ownership, adding it is "acutely aware of the urgency" of the situation. No kidding.

"Ottawa is a very strong CFL market," Wright told reporters yesterday. "We will do everything we can to ensure that this franchise has a chance to compete this season."

Thanks for that, but forgive us if we don't strike up the band just yet. We're still mad at ourselves for falling for Glieberman's line when he told us that giving up on the Rough Riders was a bad decision, one that he regretted, and that he wanted a chance to make up for his error in judgment.

Fool us twice, shame on us.

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STRIKE Eugene Melnyk off the list of saviours for CFL football in Ottawa.

Senators owner Melnyk, considered by many the best and only real candidate to take over the soon-to-be-orphaned CFL team, says his sports company will not expand at this time.

Possibly factoring in the decision is the unavailability of concession rights at Lansdowne Park, as they are held by Aramark until May 31, 2017.

Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli said he was disappointed to hear that Melnyk isn't interested.

"He has to make his own decisions for his business and he can't invest just because there is a wave of support," he said.

It appears the Renegades are going to need a lot of luck if they are going to live past the early-to-mid April timeline the CFL has set in its search for a new owner.

"They're scrambling," a source very familiar with the situation said of the CFL. "If you're asking me the odds (the team will play in 2006), I'd say they were slim and none, and slim just left town."

Bernie Glieberman acknowledged that Melynk was the league's primary target, but he believes there are other "prospects."

DISPUTES REPORT

Glieberman also disputed a report in yesterday's Globe & Mail that stated he offered no guarantees and no money up front in his bid to strike a deal to share losses in 2006.

He said he was willing to put up the first $2.5 million if the league would lend him the next $2 million, which he would personally guarantee to repay. In the offer, Glieberman would also cover any and all losses above $4.5 million. So for another year with Glieberman as owner, it wouldn't have cost the CFL a cent. "And then, at the end of (2006), if I don't see hope and promise, I could say at least I did what I could," Glieberman said from Dallas.

Glieberman assured he would return all season ticket money collected for the 2006 season if the team does not take the field. And he promised he will put the net $800,000 or so back in the kitty for a new owner, even though the cash has already been spent.

"I have no legal obligation to do that," said Glieberman. "But I said I was morally obligated. It's the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, 67's owner Jeff Hunt says the Renegades are "out of his league" financially. "That's how short the list is, that everybody calls me.

"The bushes have been beaten to death as far as local ownership (of the Renegades) goes. And with every failure, there's a greater reluctance for somebody to get involved."

Of heading or being heavily involved in a community-owned Renegades team, Hunt said: "It is intriguing. Because I'm frustrated as a fan and proud member of the community.

"I really believe football could fly in Ottawa. I think I have a blueprint ... and I've always said I'd be glad to give it to somebody. I think it can be a success, but there would be some rocky roads ahead."

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What seemed from the outset like a Hail Mary pass has fallen incomplete.

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk will not be the saviour of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Renegades.

Two days after Melnyk suggested during a radio interview that he might be interested in the beleaguered football franchise, the Senators issued a statement late yesterday afternoon that crushed any hopes that the billionaire pharmaceutical businessman might step up and save the day.

“It would be unfair for all concerned for me to make a commitment to the Ottawa Renegades that I don’t believe I could focus my full attention on,” Melnyk said. "Ottawa has had a storied football franchise with a great deal of heritage and history.

"It is a defining feature of our community and I share everyone’s concern with respect to its future.

“In the interests of clarity, I will not be seeking to purchase the franchise.”

CFL commissioner Tom Wright later issued his own statement acknowledging “Mr. Melnyk’s overwhelming contribution to sports in this country.” Wright thanked Melnyk “for his personal good wishes toward our current efforts. In terms of those efforts, we will aggressively and enthusiastically continue our work.”

Melnyk’s announcement brings the Renegades one step closer to the grave as the CFL desperately tries to find a buyer in time for the coming season. While parties have apparently expressed interest in operating the Renegades in 2007, the massive losses sure to accompany the club this season make potential investors leery.

A representative of one interested party said the logistics of operating the team at this point of the year make a deal hard to reach.

“I’m not sure we have the timetable to do this unless there was some pretty significant financial support from either the league or the current owner,” the representative said. “You can’t spend judiciously when you’ve got to go in and save a market.”

League governors have let it be known they don’t want just any owner for Ottawa; they want one, or more, who will provide long-term stability. To get that type of blue-chip owner, the league and its member clubs would be willing to provide short-term financial support for the 2006 season. Such support was not offered earlier this week to majority owner Bernie Glieberman, who was reportedly seeking a $2-million loan from the league.

The governors are also keen on having any new owner post a multimillion-dollar bond as part of the purchase agreement. The bond would cover any costs should an owner bolt or declare bankruptcy. Glieberman was not asked to post a bond last year when he took control of the Renegades.

The league said the Renegades will remain open for business until early April, at which time it is expected Glieberman will stop paying the bills. At that point, the league will either have to have a new owner in place or opt to suspend or fold the franchise, reverting to an eight-team schedule.

Meanwhile, matters on Ottawa’s football-operations side are carrying on as usual with both general manager Forrest Gregg and head coach John Jenkins arriving in Toronto for the Canadian college evaluation camp this weekend.

Jenkins would not address issues related to ownership yesterday, but insisted the team is ready for 2006 if a potential owner comes along.

“I just found out about this [ownership] stuff last night as I was moving my stuff up here,” Jenkins said. “I am in no position to comment on anything that happened with the commissioner and Bernie. But if there’s any sort of misconception about football operations [not] being ready to go, I can clarify that as being absolutely false. I’ve got the entire coaching staff hired and we’ve got all the support staff, equipment manager, guest coaches lined up. Everyone except a trainer.”

Traditionally, the CFL has not been willing to honour the contracts of coaches of clubs that end up in bankruptcy. CFL spokeswoman Alexis Redmond would make no promises with regard to the Renegades’ coaching staff.

Redmond did guarantee that refunds would be provided to the approximately 3,000 Renegade season-ticket holders in the event the team does not play.

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Ottawa Renegades season-ticket holders need not worry.

So says Bernie Glieberman, and so says the Canadian Football League.

There will be football at Frank Clair Stadium this summer, or the fans' money will be refunded. More news will come on April 4, or thereabouts, when the team is either sold, folded or has its operations suspended for 2006.

"(The money) would be protected," CFL spokeswoman Alexis Redmond said yesterday. "The last thing we want fans to worry about is their investment."

The Renegades have sold roughly 2,000 season tickets, worth $800,000 in total, this off-season, and that money is in peril if not for the benevolence of ownership.

Yesterday, Glieberman, the outgoing Renegades majority owner, said he had no intentions of taking it with him.

"I'm doing it for one reason and one reason only: my reputation," Glieberman said. "I'm not going to stick anybody. My reputation is worth more. I tried to keep the CFL in this town, and I'm trying to live up to that promise.

"I'm trying to be graceful. We made mistakes and I'm taking accountability," he continued. "I know I have legal options, but I don't go by legal options. I go by moral obligations. I want to be able to go into a town and keep my head up, not be afraid to tell people who I am."

The Renegades' drop-dead date is April 4, though the deadline could be extended if the league, which is engineering the sales process, believes it is making progress towards a deal.

It is unclear whether Glieberman has made financial promises to the league in writing, but he said minority partner Bill Smith, whose stake has decreased from 49 to 28 per cent since their partnership was forged last May, was going along with his exit plan.

On Wednesday, Smith told a Toronto newspaper he did not agree with a CFL statement claiming an "orderly" transfer of ownership was at hand, but that he was open to one at some point. Smith did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

"I've had meetings with Bill and his attorney, and Bill has allowed me to co-operate with the league and resolve this matter expeditiously and favourably to the team," Glieberman said. "It's about putting the fans and the team ahead of everything. That is foremost."

Almost all of the $800,000 in season-ticket money has already been spent, but Glieberman said he would either make sure a new owner inherited that amount, or that it was returned to fans if the team does not kick off in 2006.

A new owner would be responsible for several expensive items in the near future, however, including $250,000 in training-camp costs and $150,000 in player bonuses.

The club requires $400,000 to fund operations, including coaches' salaries, until camp begins on May 21. It has not booked travel for the season, which normally costs about $600,000.

In total, the Renegades could be operated for roughly $9 million this season, costs the league will not assume if it can't find a new owner. After teams rejected Glieberman's offer to fund the first $2.5 million in losses this season, the tab became too expensive for the other eight CFL teams.

Technically, Glieberman still owns the team, but that will change if a new owner is not found. Then the league would officially take over the franchise and announce that the Renegades had either folded or were being suspended for the 2006 season.

That should come no later than mid-April, when the team requires $300,000 to satisfy signing-bonus payments and other costs. Glieberman has told the league that, if his assistance is needed at that point, he would be willing to bridge a small financial gap for an incoming buyer.

Translation to above = The Mayor of Ottawa doesn't want CFL football in Ottawa. Thank you Mr. Mayor, I now know the Canadian city NOT to go on my vacation and spend any money from now until the day I die unless you turn from a weasel to a true Canadian.

dang it, I was really hoping for a CFL-NHL partnership!!! I feel you can't have one w/o the other in Ottawa.

hey DG! Keep the good wrk with the press review ! It facilitate thing for me :slight_smile: thanks for keeping me informed !

Bob Chiarelli is an idiot to begin with, i've called him this to his face and he kinda just smiled akwardly.

Talk about being ungreatful :roll:

They bought the team when no one else did , and then hammered them on every move that they made.

With press like that , I wouldn't touch OTTAWA with a 20 foot pole.

Look in the mirror people , you are worst than the TORONTO media.
And a lousy sports town.History has proven that.

id move them to QC asap.