Right on, Mr. Wright!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- A new, transparent, enforceable salary cap - likely increased by $1 million for next season - is being worked on.

Televising all 81 games, with an instant replay system in place for referees is being discussed.

Expansion to Halifax, Moncton or Quebec City, sooner rather than later, would create a balanced 10-team league with no bye weeks. That's in the boardroom.

Financial stability for all franchises and some sort of solution to cure the goofball Glieberguys ownership situation in Ottawa, which is killing the franchise yet again, is on the agenda.

OK, you had to read a bit between the lines on that last one.

But CFL commissioner Tom Wright laid down those plans after painting a picture of a league in dramatically improved condition since he sat ordering room service in the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton for the entire week in 2002 while B.C. owner David Braley stonewalled his hiring until the day before the Grey Cup game.

It was the annual commissioner's state of the union and former interim commissioner Braley sat at the back of the room watching the criminal situation of a commissioner, who has done his job beyond belief, lay out his plan for the future.

But he has no future beyond a less than unanimous one-year extension.

"It was three years ago this week that I met most of you for the first time,'' said Wright. "I think we're in a stronger position and a better position.''

THE GROWTH TREND

Wright detailed "the acceleration of the growth trend,'' which began when he took over and the highest attendance since 1978. He cited TSN ratings were up 27% from last year, and CBC up 5% despite having to telecast half a season without announcers, due to a lockout situation. He listed major multimillion-dollar corporate sponsorships involving major concerns such as Scotiabank, Sony, Reebok, Molson and Rogers.

"Our business is clearly changing and is now on solid ground,'' he said.

The commissioner, as much as he can commit to anything with his temporary employment status, committed himself "to build a foundation with teams working together.''

Then he listed his four priorities.

"No. 1, salary management - a new competitive balance system for 2006 - including roster size, management, trade deadine improvement, transparency and enforcement.''

Wright wouldn't offer details, but said Bobby Ackles (B.C.), Rick LeLacheur (Edmonton), Howard Sokolowski (Toronto), Ted Hellard (Calgary) and Bob Wetenhall (Montreal) - the biggest offenders - are on his committee to solve the problem. It is believed the intention includes finding a way to increase the cap to a more realistic $3.5M for all - and enforce it.

"I put together this group to get the right solution - a made-in-Canada solution.''

No. 2, instant replay.

Last year, Wright pointed out the league tripled the budget for officiating and as a result saw "a 20% reduction in penalties and a reduced number of controversial calls.''

KEEP IMPROVING

The intention is to do everything possible to keep improving officiating and instant replay, likely to be modelled along NCAA lines more than NFL lines.

No. 3, expansion.

"We need a 10th franchise and we believe there is ample market support,'' he said of Halifax, Moncton or Quebec City.

"I believe our league is ready for a 10th franchise in a new market now.''

No. 4, financial stability.

"Until our nine current franchises are financially successful and stable. Until all nine are profitable, I won't consider my work accomplished.''

Wright conceded there's also other work to be done. He suggested the CFL is in the dark ages when it comes to substance abuse.

"We don't have a formal policy. We need one,'' he said.

A code of conduct is also needed.

"We don't have a code of conduct. That's something I think is necessary.''

He doesn't have the deal to do it, but Tom Wright has proved to be the right man for the job. And he's doing it despite his handcuffs.

Give the man the ball and the chance to score touchdowns instead of first downs. Give the man a power base instead of a keep-him-in-his-place base Braley, Wetenhall and others have legislated.


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