Ottawa Search Progressing

The CFL return to Ottawa looks promising for the 2007 season, but time is short. As expected, the CFL wants a deal hammered out with a front-runner likely before too much of September slips away.

Its encouraging that the CFL is taking the search for new owners for the ninth franchise very seriously. In the past ownership/expansion committees run by board of governor members were all about finding the person who was willing to pay the highest franchise fee to the league, no marketing or business questions asked. In the end this ultimately cost the other teams when franchises failed under the weight of their franchise fee and costs had to be picked up by the league. Obviously the search is focused on returning the franchise to Ottawa since it is the only city that could operate a franchise immediately, but the process that has been created will be a model for finding a 10th franchise owner.

Franchise Fee

While a $5-6 million franchise fee was bandied about for the franchise, it was reduced to $3.5 million. I find this still to be too high, considering the same franchise was sold only 5 years ago. I understand the CFL is trying to maintain the value of existing franchises with the franchise fee, but they have to realize that a $3.5 million franchise fee, $3.5 million security bond and $4 million bank balance adds up to an $11 million investment for a CFL team. Most people with that kind of money do not want to invest it into what is a break even proposition medium-term when they could be getting a return on it somewhere else, and I would say those are the type of people they want as owners.

The other aspects of the candidate evaluation process are long overdue. Asking for a plan regarding the president and football operations, marketing to the francophone community as well as financing will shine a light on the candidate with the best opportunity to make a franchise work in Ottawa.

Expansion Draft

Mr. Hellard states that the league governors realize that an Ottawa franchise would have to be competitive immediately for the betterment of the franchise. This sounds very similar to statements before the Renegades were granted a franchise. No details of an expansion draft have been formalized but it is understood they need to start play with “a strong base of Canadian talent.” While the Canadian talent is certainly important in the CFL and in very short supply, to truly show goodwill towards the fans in Ottawa and provide some players with fan recognition, at least some of the former players should return or high-profile import players should be available in an expansion draft. Expecting a new team to find a quality quarterback from south of the border is of low probability considering the trouble the other eight teams have in finding a QB.

The next month should be exciting as a front-runner becomes clear. It sounds like all three groups are well represented and two of the three have local Ottawa connections. That is definitely important to connecting with the abused Ottawa community. This time the bitterness may not be so strong with the business community. Whether the city will take to the next Renegades or the Steelback or whatever they will be called remains to be seen.

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