Circus is back in Ottawa

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

Anyone who cares anything about professional football in Ottawa had better get used to the Gliebermans.

The combination of patriarch Bernie and his son Lonie aren't intending to go anywhere.

And there is precious little the fans can do about it, short of refusing to buy tickets and hit the owners where it hurts the most -- the pocketbook.

And there's no guarantee even that will matter, because operating with an annual loss of millions of dollars isn't going to deter this rich father-and-son act who claim they are in it for the long haul, regardless of the costs.

And let's be honest, were it not for the Gliebermans, this Ottawa franchise, which came back to life in 2002 six years after it died with the end of the Rough Riders, would not have any owners.

The Glieberguys were the only committed -- and I use that term loosely -- owners willing to bail out this franchise when the previous group splintered apart, creating a mess that dragged on for months.

The Gliebermans, with their checkered history following their tenure as careholders of the club from 1991-93, patiently waited to be officially sanctioned as the new owners. Saner businessmen would have viewed the situation with suspicion and walked away, but the Gliebermans wanted in badly.

Unlike the National Football League, the Canadian Football League does not have the luxury of owners waiting to ante up for a piece of the action.

If you break even on an annual basis with a CFL team then you've had a good year.

And sometimes it can take an owner years of annual losses to reach the break-even point or, if they are lucky, make some money.

In B.C., owner David Braley, who took over the franchise after the 1996 season, reportedly has reached that position where he's going to turn a profit after years of being in the "red zone."

In Toronto, second-year owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski might be moving toward that magic break-even point, possibly in another year or two if they can maintain the positive gains they've made with marketing, sponsorship, ticket sales and playing host to the Grey Cup in 2007 (expect an announcement on that soon.)

But back to the Ottawa market, where there's a hue and cry about the Gliebermans. All they've done -- and really it's more about Lonie, who is presiding over the club on a daily basis -- is alienate what's left of the loyal football faithful with questionable decisions.

One of those moves happens today with the official hiring of the controversial John Jenkins as head coach, replacing the popular Joe Paopao. He failed to make it to the playoffs in four seasons and all he needed to do this year was win a minimum of eight games to have his contract renewed.

He had a record of 5-3 after eight games and looked like a lock to be back in 2006. It shouldn't matter what off-field problems or distractions the team endured -- such as Lonie's public pursuit of free-agent quarterback Jesse Palmer -- if you compare it to what happened in Toronto in 2003.

Head coach Pinball Clemons took his team to within one game of the Grey Cup despite the collapse of ownership six games into the season.

Players were concerned about side deals in their contracts that were suddenly in question, and the football operations had limitations placed on recruiting and signing talent. This situation was far more acute than anything that happened this year in Ottawa.

That said, let's acknowledge that Paopao left with class and dignity, something the Gliebermans can't buy in the Ottawa market. Not that Lonie nor his father care anyway.

They believe their way is the right way, and until they stop paying their bills, which caused the ownership collapses in Toronto and Hamilton in 2003, there is little the CFL hierarchy can constitutionally do to remove them.

For better, and more likely for worse, Ottawa is stuck with the Gliebermans.


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