The lengthy article and although I have doubts whenever unnamed "sources" are used, suggests bad news is coming. With the league more then devided as the West is clearly in favour of mothballing the team.
I can't believe it because it is a step backwards anyway you look at it, the league will be loosing a team and this will not play well anywhere. One step forward and two backwards unfortunately, is the way our league has been going for years. Very sad.
My CFL includes the Gades.
Renegades set for sidelines, sources say
Final decision tomorrow: Without a buyer league looks ready to mothball team
Theresa Tedesco, National Post
Published: Saturday, April 08, 2006
The Canadian Football League is expected to suspend its franchise in Ottawa for the 2006 season rather than strike a desperate last-minute deal with a new owner or take over operations of the financially struggling team.
Sources say CFL governors will likely vote in favour of winding down the team and dispersing the players to the league's other eight teams in a special draft. A final decision is expected tomorrow when the eight governor/owners and league commissioner Tom Wright are scheduled to meet in Toronto.
According to league sources, a special five-member committee created by the CFL to negotiate with a group of potential buyers will report that it has not been able to secure a deal in time to put a team on the field for the opening game. A handful of suitors, including Eugene Melnyk, owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators, and David Asper, executive vice-president of CanWest Global Communications Corp., had expressed interest in buying the Ottawa Renegades after owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith put the team up for sale.
For a while, the league's chances of salvaging Ottawa's season looked promising, but time has simply run out with the 2006 season set to begin on June 16 and training camps to commence in late May.
The Renegades were put up for sale on March 22 because the CFL owners rejected a financial proposal put forward by Glieberman that required the league to put up a $2-million loan to help fund the team for the upcoming season.
"We feel so good about our league and our momentum. We have eight strong teams," a source close to the board of governors explained of the mood heading into tomorrow's meeting. "If it means going into our pockets and funding this team [Ottawa], I don't know if we've all seen there's enough value doing that."
The signs of financial trouble in Ottawa were obvious for weeks. The football operation was running on a shoestring budget and staff at the Renegades' front office was pared back to only a few.
But it wasn't until two weeks ago that Glieberman finally fessed up. The Detroit-based real estate developer, who had taken over the Renegades last May 31, admitted that he and his minority partner, Bill Smith, couldn't agree on how to handle the estimated $4-million to $6-million in losses the Renegades were expected to hemorrhage during the 2006 campaign.
At a meeting with the CFL commissioner in Toronto on March 20, Glieberman tabled a proposition: He would cover $2.5-million in losses but he needed a $2-million loan from the league to help with the rest, while also serving notice of his desire to sell the team for next year.
Wright knew Glieberman's proposal would not fly for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the league was finally free of the debt it had incurred from its ill-fated expansion into the United States during the 1990s.
The league's other eight owners voted against the proposal at a meeting on March 22.
"We felt it was time to move in another direction," Wright explained. "We are absolutely committed to get this right for the fans, for the city and for the league for the long-term."
Privately, the CFL governors fumed.
"We made a big mistake allowing the Gliebermans back into the league," said a CFL source who spoke on the condition of anonymity." It was done because we rushed. It was because we overlooked the obvious."
Indeed, the Gliebermans have a checkered past with the CFL. The U.S. millionaire had previously owned two franchises -- the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Shreveport Pirates during the 1990s -- and both experiences were considered failures: the Pirates folded while the Riders were left on death's door. Even so, Glieberman was able to convince the league last year that he would stick with the Renegades through the tough times. He placed his son Lonie in charge of operating the football organization.
His forfeiture of the team afforded the league impossibly little time to send out a search team to find a buyer.
The league's most immediate concern is how a failed Ottawa franchise would stall its hard-won momentum. Unlike the 1990s, when the CFL spent most of its time scrambling to prop up weak franchises, it has been able to focus on what it calls, "league building" by transforming "a loose confederacy of local interests" into a disciplined professional organization.
CFL statistics show league attendance has increased 18% since 2001, mostly in Vancouver and Toronto. As well, 84% of all Canadian sports fans follow the CFL, making Canadian professional football the second most watched sports league across the country, after the National Hockey League.
Television audiences jumped 27% in 2005 from the previous year, continuing a surge that has seen viewership spike 52% from 2000 and a whopping 155% since 1995.
This year, CTV/TSN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. are scheduled to air 86 games (including playoffs and the Grey Cup game in Winnipeg) during the 2006 season.
Concerned about the fallout of a bankrupt franchise, Wright and his charges were quickly dispatched to the broadcasters for some damage control.
"We talked to the TV guys and everyone is prepared to be patient," said a governor who asked not to be named. "What choice do they have but to be OK. The contract can't discontinue because of that."
Sources say the league could be penalized financially because its four-year broadcast contract, signed in 2003, was based on nine teams. Still, the league source said the owners believed any punishment was "immaterial."
Ditto for the league's sponsors and partners, which include Scotiabank, RONA, Tim Hortons, Molson, Best Buy and Sony.
"Some may be disappointed. We're going to have to keep talking to them to assure them this isn't a big problem. Keep in mind, Ottawa is the smallest market [in the CFL]," the governor said.
The owners say they want a solution for Ottawa that's best for the entire league, but, typically, they can't agree on how to achieve it.
"There is a certain advantage to continuity," one long-time owner said of the fallout of a year-long shutdown on Ottawa's already-eroded fan base. "If you suspend the team for a year and start over a year later, the players are gone, and you have to start from scratch. What's important to me is the continuity of the team."
Others scoff at that logic. "They don't really have any momentum in Ottawa, that's why the team is in trouble. I definitely don't think the CFL operating the team is an option."
That appears to be the hard-line position taken by the CFL's five Western teams -- Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg -- most of them community owned. With one less team, there are potentially more spoils from the league to be shared by the others, and selling the team for 2007 ensures the CFL will fetch a multi-million-dollar franchise fee.
"You are never going to get the West to vote in favour of funding the team. They could play only Western teams and they still wouldn't lose a single fan. So the way they see it is that all they'd be doing is putting up hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to prop up a team they can live without," a CFL source said.
Apparently, it's a view shared by Toronto and Hamilton, two franchises that benefited from league intervention in 2003.
"I am more than happy to contribute both the league's resources and funds as well as those of the Ticats to any plan towards making Ottawa's franchise wildly successful five years from now," said Bob Young, owner of the Hamilton Tiger Cats. "I won't support any plan that isn't achieving that end."
With a divided boardroom heading into tomorrow's pivotal meeting, sources say CFL officials were hoping that a special five-member negotiating committee would find a face-saving solution.
For the past two weeks, owners David Braley (B.C.), Doug Mitchell (Calgary), David Cynamon (Toronto), CFL chairman Tom Robinson and Wright met with a handful of prospective white knights who had expressed interest. Armed with five basic terms of engagement outlining how a deal would be structured -- approved by the CFL board of governors on March 29 -- the negotiating committee tried to strike a deal. The league wanted a buyer that will commit for at least three seasons with the expectation of losses at least in the first.
Other requirements include maintaining proper staff in the football and front office operations; an agreement on the lease of Frank Clair Stadium; the acquisition of all equipment and physical assets required to operate the franchise; and finally, the ownership structure must include a principal owner.
The asking price for the beleaguered franchise is said to be at least $4-million, which is what Glieberman paid for the Renegades last year. However, any new owner would have had to assume responsibility for the anticipated $4-million to $6-million in losses this year.
In an attempt to seal a deal, one CFL owner floated the idea that Ottawa could play five or six of its nine home games in other CFL stadiums as a way of reducing the first-year costs of running the team, but the idea did not receive much support.
Last week, Asper and Melnyk stepped away from the negotiating table, saying they'd take another look next season.
Three days ago, Golden Gate Capital, a Toronto-based investment fund fronted by Anthony Primangelo, bailed, too.
With training camp six weeks away, the owners will receive two game schedules at tomorrow's meeting. "At some point, a line is going to have to be drawn and the governors will have to take a vote," said a source familiar with the boardroom discussions. "It's not going to be an easy day."
Â© National Post 2006