new Salary cap already a success?

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The CFL's new salary cap boss was ecstatic to see general managers spending like drunken sailors on leave just before November's Grey Cup.

Teams had until Nov. 19 to pay "bonuses" to their players that wouldn't count against the league's newly instituted salary cap, which will be $4.05 million in 2007. Many teams took advantage of the constitutional wording, in some cases paying players up to half of what their 2007 salary would have been through a bonus payment.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for example, inked Doug Brown and Milt Stegall to new deals.

"Did I cringe? No," CFL director of salary expenditure reporting Trevor Hardy said yesterday from Montreal. "What I did was I said, 'This system's working.' Because if you think about it, if teams weren't going to buy into the system, they wouldn't have done that. They would've said, 'It's business as usual. There's going to be no cap enforced. What we're going to do is sign players to contracts whenever we feel like it.'

"The fact that there was this flurry of activity leading up to Grey Cup with all the signing bonuses was actually a small indication that the system was starting to work. Another indication of that has been the spate of cuts that we've seen."

Hardy, who has a forensic accounting background and is a lifelong CFL fan, spent the last few months touring the league, taking a peek at financial records and talking to GMs. Yesterday he made a formal presentation to the league's general managers at the annual CFL Congress in Montreal to clear up any confusion executives might have had.

"The fact that all teams were represented here today is an excellent sign," he said.

Teams will be punished with a luxury tax or forfeiture of draft picks for going over the cap, depending on the severity of the breach. Those penalties won't be made public, however, nor will the amount that each team spends.

SECRET PAYMENTS?

When Hardy and CFL director of finance and administration Doug Allison visited NFL headquarters in New York in November, one of their first questions for that league's salary cap police was what they do about privately run teams.

Since owners aren't required or expected to open the books of their other businesses, the opportunity for hiding secret players payments is there. Five of the CFL's teams are privately owned.

"They had that same issue in the NFL," Hardy said. "The biggest difference between the NFL and the CFL is that you've got complete and total buy-in with the NFL system.

"For whatever reason, the NFL doesn't consider that as big a risk as the CFL does. But it's a risk in every sport."

So Hardy and the CFL will have to trust that the private owners are being truthful.

"There is that risk, that scope of limitation that the auditor, no matter how thorough, either doesn't have the authority or the ability to audit everything he would like to," Hardy said.

Despite that potential for skirting the cap, Hardy remains confident the new system is going to be a smashing success.

"I actually was asked that question today by a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers," Hardy said. "He asked me, 'Next year at this time, what's your feeling that you will have been able to get every team on side?'

"And I said, 'It's going to happen.' My impression is it's going to work."

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Unless you're a friend or related to him, you probably don't know Trevor Hardy, so here's a quick bio: He's a former accountant from Burlington, Ont., who works for the Canadian Football League. His title is director of salary expenditure reporting.

Put simply, Hardy is the CFL's salary cop. The guy who uncooks the books, crunches numbers and ensures that all eight teams are paying only $4.05-million each in player salaries.

It is, he acknowledged, a demanding job, but one he jumped at because "there are very few times in an accountant's career he gets to build something. To me, this looks like a building exercise."

If Rome wasn't built in a day, it's safe to say building compliance to the CFL's new salary management system is going to take a tad longer, even with Officer Hardy on the beat.

As the man who gets to tell the Edmonton Eskimos they're so far over the cap they need Sherpa guides to get back down, Hardy spent all of Monday meeting with league officials in Montreal and outlining the salary management system. He explained everything from disclosure requirements to the penalties for — how do we say this nicely? — cheating.

But here's the rub. Say Hardy tackles his tasks, does them so well he is elected to the accountants' hall of fame. None of us will ever know how good a job he's done because the CFL has no plans to announce which teams violated the cap and whether they were punished. Talk about sending mixed messages.

The CFL wants us to believe it's a serious-minded operation, that its salary management system is the linchpin to competitive and financial balance, not to mention long-term stability.

But how do you believe that when there's no public accountability for teams that flout the rules?

"When I interviewed for this job [last September], I said it's pointless to waste everyone's time if the system doesn't have teeth," Hardy said. "In 2006, the system didn't have teeth because no penalties were in place. Did it surprise me there was only partial participation? No. But in 2007, we have the penalties. There's a gun to their heads."

So why not make that gun a .357 Magnum by telling teams they'll be named and spanked for all to see?

"I don't think it's necessary to have a bigger gun," Hardy insisted. "The salary management system is bigger than just the salary expenditure cap. There are penalties for going over the cap, but those penalties are minimal compared to the penalties for not disclosing. There's so much focus on getting under $4.05-million, but the penalties for not disclosing things like the side deals [with players] are more significant."

Unfortunately, those significant penalties have not been disclosed. Again, we'll have to trust the league that doesn't have a commissioner, isn't 100-per-cent certain if there'll be a team in Ottawa this year, and doesn't even have its 2007 schedule released.

What it does have, for the moment, are some key people willing to give the salary management thing a spin around the block.

"More than any other time I've been associated with the league, there's a fundamental understanding of the importance of the collective goal," Eric Tillman, the Saskatchewan Roughriders' general manager, told The Globe and Mail's David Naylor.

Toronto Argonauts president Keith Pelley added: "The biggest challenge is just the fact there is a new system in place. I think it's a mindset. It's a big step for the CFL."

No argument there; implementing a salary cap is a big step and some in the CFL get it. But making it work by penalizing and, yes, embarrassing the violators is a larger, more meaningful step — and the CFL obviously isn't ready for that.

As for the other matters mentioned earlier, here's an update: The search for a new commissioner to replace the ousted Tom Wright is close to producing a short list of candidates. Not among them is former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash, who was approached but turned down the opportunity, saying, "I just wasn't interested."

In terms of Ottawa and Bill Palmer's bid to revive football in the nation's capital, sources say a second deposit was due to the CFL on Jan. 31 and most governors are unaware if the payment had been made. A message was sent to Palmer asking for clarification. He didn't respond.

It seems this non-disclosure business is contagious. Too bad.

It would be nice to applaud Hardy for a job well done instead of one well-hidden.

Interesting articles, well written.

The SLAM Sports article points out

There is gaping loophole for privately run teams
in the Salary Management System which can't be plugged.

Private businesses owners don't have to open their books.
so 5 of the teams could still hide secret payments to players.

The auditor either doesn't have the authority
or the ability to audit everything he would like to.

The CFL will have to trust the private owners to be truthful.

Unfortunately, it is rumoured/reported that David Braley
has already told the auditors to get out of his office.

where is this reported???...link please.

And did the auditors get out of Mr. Braley's office? I doubt it.

Braley is an ass, and the auditors did leave.

What the Globe article from well respected writer Alan Maki says, the league will not publish the findings of the SMS. More interestingly being the violators.

There must be some truth to this. I saw Dave Dickenson pushing buttons in the elevator of the David Braley Building! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

It doesn't matter if a team is privatly owned or Community owned each one has ways they could get guys "jobs" for the off-season to hide salary's.

The bombers big Sponsors, Manitoba Hydro, Canwest Global, Canad Inns, Labatt. could all give a CFLer a job with a good salary(above average for the job) that could be "secret salary" it's just a question of if teams will do it.

technically Calgary and Winnipeg could be seen to be doing it right now because They each have players(Sandro D and Doug Brown) that have jobs with part owners or Team sponsors.

Sandro works for the Flames(with their AHL Team)
Doug Brown works for the Free Press(paper) and CJOB(Radio Station)
is that illegal? their doing actual work right?

it won't be seen just how this cap works until Training camp when alot of teams start releasing vets. even if they circumvent the Cap slightly if teams are releasing high paid players it would seem to work.

The argos released Ivory and Bonner, seems their cleaning salary cap space.

where r u guys getting this info from????

please post the link or the story.

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Like they said this is only rumoured.

There it is...and it was in a Star article
by our old friend Damien Cox, not Marty York.