Cap a little rich for Bombers

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

That wall Lyle Bauer has been beating his head against finally budged.

So why does the Winnipeg Blue Bomber president/CEO still have a headache?

For years, Bauer has been campaigning for a hard, enforceable CFL salary cap, one that would allow the community owned Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders to compete on a level playing field with wealthier teams.

Yesterday, the league unveiled the details of a comprehensive new "salary management system" that should do just that.

"It goes a long way to addressing it," Bauer told the Sun from Scottsdale, Ariz., where league governors were meeting. "It's a very good step for the league. It's almost a hallmark for everybody to get on the same page ... and approve a plan that takes us well into the future."

Then, in the next breath, the Bomber boss took a look at the cold, hard facts: the new, $3.8-million cap for 2006 represents a substantial increase in what Winnipeg spent on players last season.

It was revealed yesterday CFL payrolls in '05 ranged from around $3.4 million to just over $4 million, officially making a mockery of the old $2.6-million cap.

At the low end of that scale, the Bombers are looking at an additional $400,000 -- if they want to keep up. And this is a team that lost money a year ago.

"It's going to be a good chunk," Bauer said. "Our challenge will be to find the revenues ... to be able to continually compete at those levels."

Of course, he could spend less than the limit, although the per-team minimum hasn't been established yet.

"You don't have to spend (the cap)," Bauer acknowledged. "But we'd be fooling ourselves, and fooling everybody else, to think you're not going to have to be pretty close to that. If you're thinking about spending 10-15% less, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage."

Bauer doesn't rule out the possibility of raising ticket prices, but he acknowledged the best way to turn a better bottom line is to build a better team.

Hosting the Grey Cup this year will help, but that's not a long-term fix.

Other changes include expanded rosters and revamped injury lists, part of a clampdown on teams paying players that aren't accounted for.

"It addresses many things that have gone on in the league, and cleans up some things," Bauer said.


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