Cap boss: system works

Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Brendan Taman (right, with star Milt Stegall) hopes the salary management...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Brendan Taman (right, with star Milt Stegall) hopes the salary management system will level the CFL playing field. (Sun Media File/Marcel Cretain)

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

The CFL's new salary cap boss was ecstatic to see general managers spending like drunken sailors on leave just before November's Grey Cup.

Teams had until Nov. 19 to pay "bonuses" to their players that wouldn't count against the league's newly instituted salary cap, which will be $4.05 million in 2007. Many teams took advantage of the constitutional wording, in some cases paying players up to half of what their 2007 salary would have been through a bonus payment.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for example, inked Doug Brown and Milt Stegall to new deals.

"Did I cringe? No," CFL director of salary expenditure reporting Trevor Hardy said yesterday from Montreal. "What I did was I said, 'This system's working.' Because if you think about it, if teams weren't going to buy into the system, they wouldn't have done that. They would've said, 'It's business as usual. There's going to be no cap enforced. What we're going to do is sign players to contracts whenever we feel like it.'

"The fact that there was this flurry of activity leading up to Grey Cup with all the signing bonuses was actually a small indication that the system was starting to work. Another indication of that has been the spate of cuts that we've seen."

Hardy, who has a forensic accounting background and is a lifelong CFL fan, spent the last few months touring the league, taking a peek at financial records and talking to GMs. Yesterday he made a formal presentation to the league's general managers at the annual CFL Congress in Montreal to clear up any confusion executives might have had.

"The fact that all teams were represented here today is an excellent sign," he said.

Teams will be punished with a luxury tax or forfeiture of draft picks for going over the cap, depending on the severity of the breach. Those penalties won't be made public, however, nor will the amount that each team spends.

SECRET PAYMENTS?

When Hardy and CFL director of finance and administration Doug Allison visited NFL headquarters in New York in November, one of their first questions for that league's salary cap police was what they do about privately run teams.

Since owners aren't required or expected to open the books of their other businesses, the opportunity for hiding secret players payments is there. Five of the CFL's teams are privately owned.

"They had that same issue in the NFL," Hardy said. "The biggest difference between the NFL and the CFL is that you've got complete and total buy-in with the NFL system.

"For whatever reason, the NFL doesn't consider that as big a risk as the CFL does. But it's a risk in every sport."

So Hardy and the CFL will have to trust that the private owners are being truthful.

"There is that risk, that scope of limitation that the auditor, no matter how thorough, either doesn't have the authority or the ability to audit everything he would like to," Hardy said.

Despite that potential for skirting the cap, Hardy remains confident the new system is going to be a smashing success.

"I actually was asked that question today by a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers," Hardy said. "He asked me, 'Next year at this time, what's your feeling that you will have been able to get every team on side?'

"And I said, 'It's going to happen.' My impression is it's going to work."


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