CFL eyes return to capital

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

The Canadian Football League is seriously looking at a return to the Ottawa market as early as next season.

Commissioner Tom Wright, who's in the last year of his contract and may not be around to see it, says a decision on a new franchise in the nation's capital for 2007 will be made by September.

"I like the chances quite well," Wright said after CFL governors held their annual meeting here yesterday. "But I'm more interested in doing what's right, not doing what's quickest."

Wright says there are "several" legitimate groups who've expressed interest in heading an Ottawa franchise. He wouldn't identify them, but did say some are local Ottawa investors.

The league has struck a new "franchise committee" to pursue a return to Ottawa, as well as investigate a potential 10th franchise down the road.

The committee includes owners Bob Young in Hamilton, Howard Sokolowski of Toronto, Calgary's Ted Hellard and CFL players union president Stu Laird, as well as Wright.

"No decision to return to Ottawa ... will be made unless the ownership group we've identified is the right ownership group, with the right kind of commitment, with the financial stability, the passion for the game... to do what's right for the fans in Ottawa," Wright said.

Two franchises have already failed in that city, most recently the Renegades, who folded earlier this year.

Regaining the confidence of gun-shy Ottawa fans would obviously be a challenge for any new owner, but not an insurmountable one, according to Blue Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer.

"It's certainly not going to be easy," Bauer said. "But ... there are some good football fans there that have been dealt some pretty difficult cards over the last 20 years, or more."

CLEAR CAP: The salary cap CFL governors put their stamp of approval on yesterday includes a spending limit of $3.8 million per team.

It also includes transparency, meaning the public will know how much each team spends on players -- and which ones are penalized for exceeding the limit.

Penalties include fines, up to three times the amount of the infraction, and the loss of draft picks. However, the fines don't kick in until the '07 season.

The league will hire compliance officers to monitor team budgets.

HASHMARKS: Governors unanimously approved instant replay for the coming season. The system was used experimentally during pre-season games, as well as last year ... Former Blue Bomber chairman Gene Dunn was elected the new chairman of the CFL board of governors, replacing Saskatchewan's Tom Robinson.


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