Bomber board has stolen our team

Team is 'owned' by community, run by network of cronies

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There's a misconception among Manitobans that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are community owned. They're not.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/11/2010 (4341 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There’s a misconception among Manitobans that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are community owned. They’re not.

But they should be if we, as taxpayers, are about to buy the club a new stadium.

The Bombers are a community sponsored non-profit organization with a self-appointed board, accountable only to themselves.

CNS Ed Kaiser Ed Kaiser / postmedia news archives It�s time Joe Public had a say in how to tackle the Bombers� problems.

Those days need to end. Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Greg Selinger need to make real and transparent community ownership a non-negotiable term in any deal they make with the football club.

David Asper was going to own the team in exchange for his participation in building the stadium. If that is no longer going to be the case, and the citizens of this province are going to pick up the financial slack, that ownership stake should be legislated to the community at large.

The days of a closed board handpicking like-minded new members must end.

The very board that entered this haphazard deal with David Asper, if left to their own devices, could in effect still be free to sell the club down the road to a private citizen. That can’t happen. Not if the people of this province are going to pull this stadium deal out of the fire and give the Bombers a new home.

The football team is not the personal plaything of the self-appointed board. It’s ours. It’s time that be made clear.

The football team is nothing without the stadium. We own the old one, and we’re gonna own the new one. So let’s get the deed to the football club and be done with it.

Taxpayers can argue they want nothing to do with community ownership of a professional sports franchise. Well, sorry, but it’s too late for that. We already fund the operation. For our financial input, we should have a say in the decisions.

This taxation without representation concept doesn’t sit well here and I can’t imagine it does with you.

We should thank the board for the work they’ve done and for being fine stewards of the football club. Then revamp the entire organizational structure.

It doesn’t have to be complex, just transparent and accountable. Want a good example of how it’s done? Just look down the road to Saskatchewan where the Roughriders are not only community owned but also the CFL’s most successful franchise.

In 2004 the Riders began to sell shares in the club to get the team through a difficult financial period. The original offering of 6,000 shares sold out and now the team is advertising a second limited edition share offering. The shares sell for $250. “As a Roughrider shareholder, fans will get the opportunity to vote on team leadership, contribute to the team’s long-term viability, and help create a football dynasty owned and operated by its fans. In addition Rider shareholders receive a number of other benefits including discounts on merchandise, preferred seating upgrades, first rights to priority parking and access to special Shareholder events,” says the team’s website.

The team remains non-profit with all funds poured back into the club, so a share is more like a membership with voting rights.

With the provincial and municipal governments apparently playing a major role in funding our new stadium, one can bet they’ll want some appointees on the Blue Bombers board.

Let’s use a nine-member board for our purposes. Plan on the province taking three spots and three more for the city, leaving three to be elected from the public at large or from a created membership.

Three-year terms with a two-term maximum is an acceptable stay in office.

Cronyism gets cut down and fresh ideas and approaches constantly circulate. No one owns this team. Why let them act like they do?

Limit share purchases to one per individual to prevent any group from hijacking the team.

The Bombers have shown over the last decade that when managed carefully they can break even. That outlook should improve in an updated facility with new revenue streams.

So long as any blend of taxpayer funding and user fee surcharge doesn’t hamstring the club, the Bombers have the potential to be profitable and competitive in a new facility.

If we’re paying for it, let’s enjoy the privileges of ownership, including having our say.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

 

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