Local ownership 'fraught with uncertainty'

JORGE BARRERA -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Community ownership could be the only salvation for the beleaguered Ottawa Renegades, but the road there may be too tough to travel, according to sports management experts.

The Renegades were put up for sale yesterday after a conference call between the CFL's board of governors in Toronto. The league created a committee to find new ownership for the club, which lost about $4 million last year.

Carleton University director of athletics Drew Love said community ownership may be the only way to keep the team in Ottawa, but the move would be fraught with uncertainty.

"It may be the only option, but that doesn't make it the best option," said Love. "It's unclear whether a community-based organization that rallies around the club in the initial year would last and be sustainable for two or three years when club operations actually become viable."

The Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers are community-owned, as are the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

The Roughriders offer $250 public shares and have sold around 3,000. The Eskimos offer $10 shares, but they are not open to the public and can only be purchased through referral by the current 80 owners.

The Blue Bombers are run like a not-for profit organization, said a team spokesman. All three of the CFL teams have been community-owned for decades.

LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS

Bad ownership has hurt the Renegades, said Love. If the football club strikes it lucky and finds someone with deep pockets to pick up the pieces, the new owner should let the experts run the team, he said.

"Often in ownership, they are purchasing the team because they are just interested in being an owner and they want to run the team without the experience to make it viable. That is a dangerous mix," said Love.

London, Ont.-based CSTT Sports Management president Gary Curgin said a lack of local concern over the Renegades' future would be an indication that community ownership won't work.

"You don't have a strong enough fan base now, it shows not enough people want it," said Curgin.

Former Ottawa Roughriders and Ottawa Senators president Jim Durrell said community ownership would not work in the current CFL context.

"It really needs the stability of deep pockets and it needs someone to backstop it," said the former mayor.

Durrell was behind a push to put a community group together in the late 1980s and they managed to raise a couple of million dollars for the endeavour.

"But the trouble with that is if you have a bad year and you have to go to the well, the group diminishes in size," he said.


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