Lemon-Gades, again

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

The Ottawa Renegades continue to hang in limbo.

The CFL board of governors, along with current Ottawa owners Bernie Glieberman and Bill Smith, have decided to try to sell the club in the next couple of weeks to a new investor.

In the process, the CFL head office will also try to get a handle on the disarray inside the team.

But there's no guarantee the Renegades will exist past early April.

"In terms of 2006, we will do everything we can to ensure this franchise has an opportunity to compete," said CFL commissioner Tom Wright.

"But before we can make that commitment we must be sure that a number of key questions have been answered: questions of ownership, of team readiness, the state of front office and marketing, the state of ticketing."

Wright's announcement came after yesterday's emergency CFL board of governors meeting that was called to deal with the mess in the nation's capital.

Glieberman made it clear last week he could not afford to finance the Renegades' entire 2006 debt load - pegged between $4-6 million - and would need help.

That led to wild speculation of the Renegades folding, suspending operations or having the other eight clubs spend between $200,000-$500,000 each to prop up the team for 2006.

'A NEW APPROACH'

The move to sell the club was made because "a new approach to building and operating the team is required," according to Wright.

The team lost nearly $4 million last year.

The commissioner admitted the governors talked about the possibility of funding the team through this season, but said no "long-term decisions" will be made until early April.

Although an exact drop-dead date for a decision hasn't been given, it will surely come before the April 20 college draft, which is one month before training camps open.

However, as expected, Wright offered his best sales pitch yesterday and sounded hopeful.

"Ottawa is a very, very strong CFL market," said the commissioner.

"It's the fourth-largest market in the country.

"It has a proud history inside the game, has won seven Grey Cups and I am confident we will be successful."

Wright believes there are interested investors for the Renegades and expects the team to play its first preseason game in Halifax on June 3.

However, no names of potential investors were given and Wright admitted he hadn't spoken with Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

The commissioner also admitted a price tag on the team hasn't been set.

There's also plenty of uncertainty surrounding Renegade players. If the team folds, it's unclear if a player's contract will be guaranteed if he's selected in a dispersal draft.

"We're going through that research with our legal counsel," CFLPA president Stu Laird told the Sun.

It's also uncertain if the league will face financial penalties with its TV partners if Ottawa folds.

Wright politely danced around the topic - and so did CBC.

DIFFERENT RESPONSE

But TSN offered a different response.

"If Ottawa were to fold, it doesn't affect our deal," TSN's Andrea Goldstein told the Sun.

For the Edmonton Eskimos, the Renegade waiting game means tickets and schedules will be held from presses - but there are no complaints.

"We're supportive of the announcement regarding Ottawa," said Eskimo marketing director Dave Jamieson.

The Eskimos' regular-season opener is scheduled for June 24 against Ottawa.


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