Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New TV deal big win for Buchko

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Not a lot has gone right for Garth Buchko since he took over as CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last winter.

Until Thursday.

With one swoop of a pen on a new television deal announced between the CFL and TSN, the myriad of problems that have beset the Bombers on Buchko's short watch -- construction delays on the new stadium, the extending and then firing of head coach Paul LaPolice, the extending and then retaining of GM Joe Mack -- suddenly became small potatoes.

This new deal is nothing short of the richest television deal in the history of Canadian football and the word "transformative" that both Buchko and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon used to describe the new package doesn't begin to tell the story behind how truly historic this new arrangement really is.

Under the new deal, which runs from 2014 through 2018, each CFL team will receive about $4.5 million per season in television revenue in a league where the salary cap is just $4.4 million per season.

Just to repeat -- the new CFL television deal that kicks in next year will more than cover the entire payroll for every team in the league for the entire season.

Now, I can hear Buchko's critics already -- Yeah, so what, anyone could be minding the store when a sack of money falls from the sky and hits you in the head.

Maybe. But the fact is -- and it wasn't revealed until yesterday -- that Buchko was instrumental in negotiating the new broadcasting deal. Indeed, it turns out that one of the most common knocks against the Bombers boss -- what's a guy who's spent a lifetime in radio doing running a football team anyway? -- turned out to be his strongest asset when history, and the commish, came to call.

In an interview, Buchko told me -- no, he didn't bring it up, I did -- that almost as soon as he took over as Bombers boss, Cohon personally asked him to join the small CFL team that was negotiating with TSN.

Buchko agreed and was intimately involved in negotiations beginning last winter and continuing all the way through the final agreement -- which was actually reached about a month ago, but only announced after the lawyers had finally parsed the thing together.

Yes, I get that a lot of Bombers fans aren't big fans of Buchko. And some of that is understandable -- if a fire starts the moment you show up, everyone's going to assume you lit the match despite the fact the thing had been smouldering for years.

Even Buchko's personal style rankles many people in a town where anyone wearing anything other than a sweatshirt and blue jeans -- let alone frosted tips and purple socks -- risks being labelled as 'uppity.'

But there's nothing like a couple of big wins to change people's impressions of you. Yesterday's announcement of a new TV windfall was the first real win Buchko has put up on the board since he took over as Bombers boss. And it was a monster.

And Buchko's very likely going to make it two wins in a row very soon. Because when the oft-delayed, constantly criticized new Investors Group Field opens in just a couple more months, it says here all the detractors are going to go underground just as surely as they did after the opening of Shaw Park and the MTS Centre -- two buildings which were also much-maligned during construction but are now almost universally regarded as things that make this a better city in which to live.

Has Buchko won us a Grey Cup? No, not yet. But a lucrative new TV deal and a shiny new stadium will definitely help in that quest, now in its 23rd maddening year.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 0

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