Football name games

Edmonton Eskimos players hoist the Grey Cup after their 34-22 win over the Montreal Alouettes in...

Edmonton Eskimos players hoist the Grey Cup after their 34-22 win over the Montreal Alouettes in the 91st Grey Cup in Regina in 2003. The CFL is looking into the idea of selling the naming rights to the Grey Cup.

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

For the second year in a row, the Canadian Football League's Board of Governors is holed up at Montreal Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall's West Palm Beach, Florida, digs.

The movers and shakers from the CFL's nine teams basked in the sunshine and kicked around a number of notions aimed at growing the league's brand across the country.

Among the ideas discussed during yesterday's opening-day session was the possibility of selling naming rights to the Grey Cup game.

If the proposal were to get the green light this year, Vancouver could be hosting the fill-in-sponsor-name-here Grey Cup come November rather than the 93rd annual battle for the Earl of Grey's mug.

It could also mean several million extra bucks in the league's coffers annually.

"Every business has to take a look at where the opportunities and challenges are," said CFL commissioner Tom Wright by telephone from Florida last night.

"We would do something if it was right for the league, right for the brand and right for our teams.

"As part of a whole host of things we looked at that can build our business, that was discussed. Nothing more, nothing less."

Selling the Grey Cup naming rights was part of a broader discussion regarding the CFL's improved market share in Canada.

TV RATINGS ON THE RISE

According to Wright, television ratings are not the only numbers on the rise.

"We do tracking research on our brand and on the health of the league by different markets and by different age groups," the commissioner explained.

"This is research that talks about brand preference and why you like the CFL compared to other leagues. And what kind of features and attributes you like about it.

"Temperature read on the health of a brand is probably the best way to express it.

"We had a really good session that sort of brought everybody up to speed on the health of the league. And it really confirmed a lot of the things we've seen in the marketplace. It confirms that we, as a league, have got momentum."

While a deal to sell the Grey Cup naming rights could net the league in the neighbourhood of $5 million per season, the move could ruffle the feathers of CFL purists.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats general manager of football operations, Ron Lancaster, is opposed to the idea in principal.

Still, the prospect of the TiCats and the other CFL clubs feathering their nests is appealing to Lancaster.

"I'd kind of like to just call it the Grey Cup," said the Hall of Famer from Hamilton yesterday. "I didn't like to see the Rose Bowl change and the Sugar Bowl change.

'I'M NOT BIG ON THAT'

"They're now the Nokia Sugar Bowl and all that stuff. I'm not big on that, so I really probably don't like that. But that's the way it is in this day and age. In this day and age, everything is for sale.

"Things have changed. That's why it doesn't bother me. I understand it."

Expansion, the league's salary cap and video replay top the agenda for today's final day of meetings.

With all nine clubs reportedly exceeding the cap, which was pegged at $2.55 million last season and unlikely to be penalized, talks will likely be largely philosophical.

One faction believes the cap should be nothing more than a guideline. Another is of the opinion it's key to the league's survival and stricter enforcement is a necessary evil. Then there's the undecided.

"I think it's safe to say that everybody around the table knows that having some level of cost controls is right in any business," said Wright, defending the cap.

"We also know that it's a complex issue and one that we have to lock-step with our players' association. There are differing views. Ultimately, we have to do what's right for the business model we're all collectively trying to build."

LATE HITS: The Edmonton Eskimos will unveil R.D. Lancaster as their offensive coordinator today.


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