From today's Globe & Mail: David Braley, Pigskin Patriarch
In case it wasn't clear to anyone (and I admit I didn't know all of this stuff), without Braley the CFL might not exist today.
His critics should be forced to acknowledge this when they accuse him of less than noble motives.
Braley has also propped up the CFL financially at its most perilous junctures over the last 30 years as a largely unseen benefactor. ... Braley likely has no equal in professional sports. Aside from his ownership, he is former chairman of the CFL board and its interim commissioner. ... When then Ticats owner Harold Ballard, in failing health, couldn't find a buyer, Braley offered $500,000, to be financed with proceeds from the team's five-year sponsorship agreement with Players Tobacco. ... Braley gave the club to a local not-for-profit corporation but continued to finance the club periodically, and quietly.
“When they couldn't make the payroll, [then commissioner Larry Smith] would drop by and ask me to write another $100,000 cheque,? Braley said. “And I would say yes.?
The run-up to the 1996 Grey Cup in Hamilton is generally regarded as the closest the CFL has come to extinction, so close, an unnamed cabinet minister visited Braley and warned him that the CBC would bail as a television partner if the league could not field a team in Vancouver.
And that is why, in November of 1996, Braley bought the B.C. Lions.
Over the next six seasons, Braley helped to finance the Argos without the knowledge of almost everyone in the league, including commissioner Mark Cohon, who had been hired in 2007. Braley characterizes the arrangement as loans, not dissimilar to those he'd made to other clubs.
When Braley took over the Lions, they had a season ticket base of 3,500 and a string of previous owners had walked away in despair. By last season the Lions had a healthy season-ticket base of almost 20,000 and next season will move into B.C. Place following a taxpayer funded $458-million renovation that includes a retractable roof.
“He's smarter than anyone else in the room, and because of that we all tend to listen to him,? (Bob) Young said of Braley.