Dollar daze

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 5:34 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- How will the North American financial-market crisis impact the Edmonton Eskimos?

It's a question that executives with the CFL team would love to know the answer to.

But right now, there is no answer.

As stock markets fell - once again - in Canada and the United States yesterday, there is concern among Eskimo brass.

"I am not really sure what (the stock market crisis) is going to do to us. In the area of marketing and sponsorship I think it is probably safe to assume that it is going to be (a) more challenging environment out there to maintain the dollars you have and attract new ones," said Eskimos marketing and communications director Dave Jamieson before the kickoff of the Edmonton-B.C. Lions game last night at B.C. Place.

"What it is going to force people to do is work harder to ensure partners get full value for their sponsorship dollars."

Rick LeLacheur - the Eskimos' president and CEO - believes that eastern CFL teams could feel a bigger impact because of the slumping manufacturing sector.

"The benefit we have in Alberta is the oil," said LeLacheur, who doesn't believe the major stock-market declines and global financing crisis will cause a serious blow to the Esks' bottom line.

But LeLacheur said that before oil dropped another $8.89 US to finish yesterday at $77.70 US a barrel - the lowest level since Sept. 2007.

That news is fitting for a horrible financial week across the continent:

* The Dow Jones suffered its worst week ever.

* The Toronto Stock Exchange has been in steep decline the entire month, losing another 535 points yesterday.

* The Canadian dollar had its biggest single-day plunge yesterday, dropping to its lowest level since 2004.

The good news for the CFL is that player salaries are paid in Canadian dollars - unlike the National Hockey League.

But there are several looming questions facing the Eskimos if this financial crisis worsens.

Will there be a drop in walk-up ticket purchases the rest of this year - and possibly the playoffs - if households cut costs?

"The reality is: we are entertainment," continued Jamieson. "When people have to make hard decisions about their money, often entertainment gets left off the table. So, that concerns us. If people are having to make hard decisions about where to spend the few dollars they have, you are concerned."

Edmonton has attracted at least 40,000 fans to three of its last four home games.

With the club's radio rights contract up at the end of the year, will the team experience a drop in rights fees because of a slowdown in the Edmonton advertising market that drives radio?

Another question: Will the club have to finally agree to a sponsorship deal in the off-season to put a logo on the natural grass field to avoid a downturn in corporate sponsorship sales?

So many questions and no answers as the football club's top execs continue to plan for the rest of this year and next.

At least there is one large positive: the government has officially committed the money for the construction of the new practice facility - which will be shared by local residents.

That project doesn't appear to be in danger.


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