The latest in the B.C. Lions ongoing ownership situation was revealed by current owner David Braley.
The 78-year-old has been strategically searching for a proper fit.
“I want a buyer that will work at it 100 per cent of the time and try and draw as many fans as they can. And personally who has cash because for example you can loose a little money one year and make a little the next year. You can loose money for two or three years in a row — you can’t be worried whether or not you can write a cheque,” Braley told TSN radio 1040 in Vancouver.
“Your local ownership has not stepped up to the plate as far as putting an offer on the table that is acceptable. That’s the bottom line. So now I’ve opened it up, we have very strong interest from groups in Vancouver — let’s say a minimum of four or five — there’s a lot of them. Interest elsewhere whether it’s in the mid-west or whether it’s in London, Ontario and then two or three in the States, they’re very interested.”
That doesn’t seem to bode well for those who hope for local ownership in the Lower Mainland. Braley is ready to sell, especially after recent health problems had him in the hospital for long periods of time. He spent 10 out of 12 weeks recently in the hospital and after returning home the second time for one day woke up with pneumonia.
“That’s the one that almost killed me this time. I’m back at work as of about a month ago, I started with two hours a day, then I went to three, four and now I’m at about six,” Braley said.
“There are things happening and there’s discussions taking place, but I never discuss things of that nature in public because all it does it harm the process and makes sure it doesn’t go through.”
The Burlington, Ontario resident has owned the Lions for 23 years, purchasing the franchise in 1997. During his time as owner, B.C. has won three Grey Cups in 2000, 2006 and 2011. The Leos are not contending in 2019 as the only team to miss the playoffs in the West Division.
The Lions invested heavily in quarterback Mike Reilly inking the face of the franchise to a deal worth $2.9 million dollars over four years, but it didn’t have the desired effect on the team in year one. During the first full season under general manager Ed Hervey, since Wally Buono retired, the Lions are last place in the West and have failed to record a win against a Western rival. However, head coach DeVone Claybrooks and his staff have B.C. shown improvements of late.
“On the field they’re a lot better than they were the first 11 games when they lost 10. So from a football point of view, we’re better than where we to start the season, but this has been a terrible start, it should never have been that bad. I thought that we would be a plus club, at least 10-8 maybe even better, but it didn’t work out that way,” Braley said.
“The word disappointed would be more appropriate. I don’t wish to discuss individuals or discuss items. I’m doing a complete evaluation of all facets of our game and business right now and then in due course I will make the necessary changes or adjustments if they’re required.”
Braley was CFL commissioner for one season in 2002, served as the chair of the league’s board of directors and inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He’s confident in the league and three-down game, but believes the CFL should put more emphasis on marketing.
“When I was the commissioner many years ago, we used to have on the back of every cereal box in the country and every shelf in the country a little discount, you take that to buy your ticket and you get five dollars off it,” Braley said.
“Everybody knew where to go and how to get it and it was being sold by the cereal box, but it was also being sold by the company that owned the cereal box on radio, TV and what have you. The average age of our attendance is much lower than other teams.
Just as the CFL is trying to sell the product to a new generation, Braley is striving to identify the best owner to succeed him with the Lions.