Trying to right the ship

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

We've got good news and bad news for you today, sports fans.

Let's start with the good.

If we are to believe a report in the Globe and Mail, the CFL is on the verge of implementing a real salary cap.

After all these years of pretending there was a cap, but letting everybody cheat on it, the people that run our three-down game are going to get serious, allegedly.

Next season, we're told, is when the new spending limits will take effect.

Now for the bad news, and fans in Winnipeg and Regina better be sitting for this.

According to the report, the salary cap will come in at some $3.8 million -- a full $1.2 million higher than the $2.6-million "guideline" that exists today.

I can see the David Braleys (B.C.) and David Cynamons (Toronto) of the world saying, "Great -- that's about what we've been spending, anyway."

And teams like the Blue Bombers and Roughriders? Well, good luck finding the additional money.

The Bombers project a loss of a few hundred thousand bucks this year, the 'Riders a modest profit.

Both teams already treat the annual free agent derby more as a threat to their own players than an opportunity to sign others.' The gap between the haves and have-nots would only increase with a higher cap.

Of course, all this is still on the speculative side, with nobody confirming any of the numbers.

The original report didn't even name its sources, using what CFL commissioner Tom Wright jokingly referred to yesterday as "the dreaded league source."

'Different concepts'

"I'm not going to get into specifics," Wright told the Sun from Toronto. "We're looking at many different concepts that would be part of a system that, hopefully, will lead to competitive balance. Nothing has been presented in its entirety."

Here at home, Bomber big cheese Lyle Bauer said he knew nothing of a proposed new system.

"We haven't seen any system that has been presented in its entirety, and our football club has not been part of the process," Bauer said. "It would irresponsible to comment on it without having all the details, and anybody who is commenting on it really shouldn't be. If you don't have all the information, it leads to misinformation."

Fans on The Prairies -- right across the loop, for that matter -- had better hope that's exactly what this is.

Because bumping the current cap past the $3 million mark would be a huge mistake.

The suggestion that every team already spends far more than that is ludicrous.

Yes, all nine probably spent more than $2.6 million, but Winnipeg and Saskatchewan at least try to stay in the same area code. Not because they're so concerned with the good of the league, but because they don't have a choice.

As community-owned teams without big bank accounts like Edmonton's, they simply don't have the money.

After nearly going bankrupt five years ago, the Bombers are governed by a community-based board that can't allow the team to go deep into debt again.

Saskatchewan's debt was recently forgiven by the provincial government there, and I can't imagine there's an appetite to start another one.

What the CFL needs is a salary cap that allows the smallest markets to compete, not one the league's millionaire owners are comfortable with.

Wright says he's confident one is coming, soon. We've heard that before.

So has Bauer, who sounds tired of the whole debate.

"We've talked about it ad nauseam," Bauer said. "But right now, we'll just deal with what exists. And right now, nothing exists. Until there is something and it's enforceable, I'm not going to worry one bit about it, and I'm not going to lose one ounce of sleep about it.

"Any lost sleep is going to be dedicated to improving our club."

Truth is, he's got his work cut out for him -- salary cap or not.


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