Parity levels field

Bombers' running back Charles Roberts is yet again leading the CFL in rushing. The Bombers are one...

Bombers' running back Charles Roberts is yet again leading the CFL in rushing. The Bombers are one of the league's poorest franchises and have gone the longest without winning a Grey Cup. (Sun Media file)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

It is almost the midway point of the CFL season, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders are leading their respective divisions.

Maybe this new salary management system is working after all.

The Bombers and Roughriders are two of the league's three community-owned teams. They are the two poorest franchises and have gone the longest without winning a Grey Cup. They have always wanted a more level playing field, and now it looks like they have it.

Aside from teams playing the rebuilding Hamilton Tiger-Cats or the quarterback-depleted Toronto Argonauts, it's been impossible to pick surefire winners this season. Parity appears to have enveloped the three-down landscape.

"We are working with all the teams," rookie CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said on his visit to Winnipeg over the weekend. "There are some teams that are trending above it, and some teams are right where they should be. We'll see at the end of the season if that's what happens.

"At the end of the season they know that our office is taking this seriously, and there will be fines if they're over the number."

Teams that exceed the $4.05-million cap will be fined a loonie for each dollar they are over up to $100,000. It's a $2 hit for every dollar between a $100,000 and $300,000 breach, and it's a $3 fine for every dollar if it's more than a $300,000 violation. If a team really spends wildly out of control, it might also forfeit draft picks.

There were whispers earlier this year that a few teams were keeping the league's salary cap police chief, Trevor Hardy, from sneaking a peek at their books, but Cohon said all teams have complied.

"Our guy has been to every team twice," Cohon said.

And it appears most are playing by the rules. There were salary dumps galore during the off-season, and only a handful of those high-priced veterans have been picked up by other teams.

As Cohon alluded to, some franchises may end up violating the cap this year, but it will likely have more to do with injuries than intentional overspending. Saskatchewan, Montreal and Edmonton, for instance, have been hammered by the injury bug and therefore have been paying more players each week than they originally anticipated.

As for potential changes to the system, Cohon is listening. Montreal owner Robert Wetenhall told the Gazette in June that the SMS needs "some very serious adjustments" and vocalized his main concern.

"Because we're in a fan-driven league, where ticket sales generate most of our income, we need to have exceptions to the cap, which allow us to keep our veteran players, the veterans who attract fans to our games," Wetenhall told the Gazette.

Wetenhall also refused to comment when asked if his team would adhere to the cap this season.

Cohon isn't worried about Wetenhall's words. In fact, he's happy to hear dialogue about an important league issue.

"At some point there'll be little tweaks ... but are there bigger issues? Not sure yet," Cohon said. "We'll canvass. I mean, Bob has made some comments, and we'll see, but we're going to track all those and then we'll sit down at the end of the year with the governors and talk about it."


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