Not ready for privacy

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

Are we ready for this?

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers blow a game to a hated rival and the new owner confronts players on the sidelines and berates the head coach in the dressing room. Only this time, no one can escort him off the premises because he's the one who runs the show.

OK, maybe that is a touch unfair to David Asper, who is reportedly one of three persons or groups that have expressed an interest in purchasing Winnipeg's community-owned CFL franchise.

It was only one incident and Asper did remove himself as the club's board chairman, the responsible thing to do at the time (last season). But the thing is, CFL history is full of owners who did pretty much whatever they wanted before just up and leaving, often leaving franchises on the brink of bankruptcy.

So, do the Bombers really need or want private ownership?

A good owner could rescue the club from those 'Save the Franchise' campaigns that have haunted its recent past. A good owner could hire a man with good business acumen, such as a Lyle Bauer, to oversee the day-to-day operations. And a good owner could spur the financial support needed for a new stadium.

Of course, a good owner would also be determined to turn a tidy profit, and therein lies the rub.

The layman community responded to those 'Save the Franchise' campaigns. So did the corporate community. And both the provincial and city governments helped prop up the sinking ship in its most dire straits.

That means every tax-paying individual who lives in Manitoba has financially supported the club. So every one of us has invested in the franchise. Do you want your investment to be used to help make a private owner richer? I don't. Maybe if he, or they, had ponied up before the Bombers came to us with scuffed helmets in hand, we would be more willing to help them out.

On the other side of the coin, Bauer is the one responsible for digging this club out of an enormous debt -- with the help of the governments and the local citizenship.

But without a private owner, who will keep this ship floating once Bauer rides his Harley off into the sunset? Is there anyone out there with the same passion of a player who once suited up in Blue and Gold and has similar smarts?

The only other community-operated CFL clubs are found in Regina and Edmonton.

TEETERED ON COLLAPSE

The Eskimos have been the most financially-stable franchise for years. The Saskatchewan Roughriders have been through their own 'Save the Club' telethons.

The other five members are all privately-owned and have teetered on collapse before new ownership saved the day.

Then there's Ottawa.

Supporters of private ownership will tell you owners are more willing to sink cash into the club so they can field a competitive team that will draw crowds. But the CFL has introduced a salary cap that, if enforced properly, will even that playing field.

Those supporters will also tell you a private owner can just write a cheque if the books start looking too red. Gee, just like the Glieberguys did in Ottawa, right?

Meanwhile, supporters of community-owned clubs know they depend on the good will of the average fan. But at least the average Joe painted in Blue and Gold knows he is one of many owners of that club. And that just seems to fit the psyche of our blue-collar town and our blue-collar province.

It would be a lot tougher for a private owner to elicit that kind of support over the long haul. No matter how rich that owner might be.


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