CFL tells beer baron to buzz off

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

Remember when the prospects for a return of CFL football to Ottawa were so rosy?

The field was flush with what seemed to be bonafide and interesting candidates to resurrect the pro game here, not the least of which was a bid fronted by 67's owner Jeff Hunt.

Now it seems it's down to just one candidate.

After Hunt and the Golden Gate Capital group pulled out after backer Ernest Anderson was stricken with cancer, now it looks like the CFL has told beverage entrepreneur Frank D'Angelo it's last call and he's going home alone.

D'Angelo was at the Ottawa Sports Celebrity Dinner the other night in the salons at Lansdowne Park, bidding strongly on a number of silent auction items.

Now it looks like that is as close as he's going to get to owning anything in the area of Lansdowne Park.

D'Angelo told a Toronto reporter the CFL has informed him it no longer wishes to negotiate with him to own a new CFL franchise in Ottawa.

That apparently leaves the CFL to negotiate with just one group: The one fronted by former CFLer Bill Palmer and a group of American investors.

Judging by the e-mails and comments from fans I received, most football fans said they felt D'Angelo was just making noise about owning a team in Ottawa to get some buzz for his beer brands, a view with which D'Angelo strongly disagreed.

"I'm a sincere guy. We don't need to do this stuff. We spend enough on advertising," he told the Sun at the time.

"I came in here with honourable intentions. I sponsor the Argos and I understand the perils. I think I can handle that. I think the other parties can handle that, too.

"I think if you do something and you're not sincere about it, it can come back to haunt you, especially when you're playing with people's passions, like they have in Ottawa for football."

BRASH STYLE

There were some who thought D'Angelo's brash marketing style might have been just what a CFL team in Ottawa needed, though they were in the minority.

If nothing else, his presence gave at least the appearance of there being competition for a team.

Now it's just down to the Palmer group.

The future of CFL football in Ottawa is now down to a critical stage. The CFL appears to have decided the Palmer bid has the best chance of being successful and negotiators on both sides should now be poised to get down to hammering out a deal.

This critical stage comes amid rumours the CFL now has its eyes set on a $5-million franchise fee, a considerable boost from the $3.5 million that had been widely speculated as the initiation fee to join the CFL club.

The CFL apparently feels justified in commanding $5 million because of increased revenues from television rights. Since a new team would be getting a slice of a bigger pie, it should pay more for the knife and fork and a spot at the table.

The worry for Ottawa CFL fans now is if the Palmer group finds $5 million too rich for its blood or for any other reason can't do a deal, is that it for a return of the league in 2008?

The CFL certainly doesn't seem interested in playing the Palmer and D'Angelo bids off one another, which is usually the smart way to go when you have something more than one party wants.

The league has picked its dance partner, apparently, and that empowers the Palmer group.

Now the game really gets interesting with the future of CFL football in Ottawa in the balance.


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