Tiger-Cat owner sees great future in Ottawa
By Ken Peters
The Hamilton Spectator (Mar 24, 2006)
Hamilton Tiger-Cat owner Bob Young believes the Canadian Football League has a long-term future in Ottawa.
"On a personal basis I feel Ottawa is as good a football town if not better than Hamilton and you know what I think about Hamilton," he said yesterday. "That's about as strong praise as I can give for the potential of CFL football in Ottawa as I can think of.
"To quote Apollo 13 'Failure in Ottawa is not an option.' How we achieve success is going to be a function of a lot of hard work but I don't see any reason why we won't be successful in Ottawa once we come up with the right solution."
But Young said the league may have to suspend the current Ottawa Renegades' franchise for this season in order to secure the best ownership for the controversy-mired club.
League Commissioner Tom Wright formed a committee, comprised of league board chairman Tom Robinson, B.C. owner David Braley and himself, to help find new owners for the ailing franchise. The board of governors decided it was best that current owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith transfer the club to new owners because of their reluctance to cover a possible $6 million loss this season.
But there is no guarantee a prospective buyer can be found to keep the Renegades in operation this season. The league will certainly call on Ottawa Senators multi-millionaire owner Eugene Melnyk or look at a community ownership option. Failing that, the league may opt to bankroll the team for a season or suspend operations until new ownership can be found.
"They (the committee) may conclude that the best thing we can do in Ottawa is to put the team on hiatus for a year, not for negative reasons but for positive reasons. By doing that we might get a stronger, new ownership team coming in with a better opportunity to gain corporate support and a better opportunity to sell season's tickets than they would be scrambling in the rest of this year.
"This is not a desperate situation. This is a situation that requires a lot of hard work and a lot of intelligence to make sure we do the right thing for the fans of Ottawa, not just for this season or next season. What we have to do for Ottawa is give them certainty for the next 10 years," Young added.
For his part, Young said he has considered buying the Ottawa franchise and operating two teams. But he has rejected the idea, in part, because he doesn't believe Ottawa fans would support an owner with investment in two CFL clubs.
Asked whether he believed the Renegades will play this season, the Ticat owner answered: "I have no way of knowing is the short answer."
He said the positive news is that the rest of the eight franchises are so strong, the league has several options to consider as possible solutions to the Ottawa problem.
"We have more revenue across the league than we've ever had, so if the league decides we are the ones to pitch in, they suddenly have the resources to do that," he said, adding he is aware there have been expressions of interest from potential investors interested in Ottawa.
"I'm very relaxed on the subject because of the calibre of people that I know we're talking to and because of the number of options the league itself has in dealing with this situation," he added.
The Ticat boss said Wright acknowledged in his teleconference call with the league bosses that he made a mistake in backing Glieberman's bid last May to take over the Renegades.
"That's what Tom Wright was doing in his mea culpa when he acknowledged in hindsight that was a mistake. We should have gone through the process a year ago to find the right solution for Ottawa for the next 10 years and not the next 12 months," he said.
Young said if the league has to revert back to eight teams for a season, he sees it as a case of one step backwards to achieve two steps forward.
"I'm absolutely convinced Ottawa has been an under-served market and if we get the right group I think we can put together a plan that Ottawa's success will be every bit as exciting as the success that we've had in Hamilton."
Hamilton Spectator File Photo
Ticat owner Bob Young, left, and B.C. owner David Braley are both likely to play a significant role in the future of the Ottawa franchise.