Impact bid scuttled?

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

After being the odds-on favourite for an expansion franchise in 2011, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced Friday that Montreal was out of the running because of an incomplete bid.

The Montreal Impact claim it did not pull out of the running and will hold a press conference this morning to address the situation.

With a soccer-specific stadium and devout fan following already in place, Montreal was a logical fit.

One has to wonder whether the bid's reliance on the financial strength of George Gillett Jr. and his current financial woes contributed to the collapse of the bid.

Gillett and Tom Hicks have a Jan. 25 deadline to pay back the $664-million loan for their purchase of English Premier League club Liverpool.

Although they have an option to extend the payment deadline by six months, neither the Royal Bank of Scotland nor Wachovia bank are in a position to play Mr. Nice Guy.

In an intriguing twist, the story that broke a couple of weeks ago linking Research In Motion's Jim Balsillie to buying the Montreal Canadiens may still have legs.

In publicly declaring a "for sale" sign on the Canadiens, Balsillie may have been providing Gillett with a get-out-of-jail-free card, giving him the option to sell the Canadiens as a quick solution to his problems.

Balsillie would take control of the Canadiens and Gillett would be in a better position to maintain ownership of Liverpool, the crown jewel of his sporting interest.

Regardless, it appears a $40-million expansion fee and a Saputo Stadium face-lift were not part of Gillett's short-term agenda.

The league says it still sees a future for the MLS in Montreal, just not right now and not without Gillett's financial backing.


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