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  • Thursday, February 3, 2000

    CFL wrestled with WWF proposal

    By PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

     Almost half the teams in the Canadian Football League wanted to pursue merger talks with the World Wrestling Federation last year but were counted out by the ruling minority.

      A source told The Toronto Sun yesterday the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders wanted to continue discussions with the WWF, which aimed to take over the CFL last year.

      The Montreal Alouettes reportedly took a neutral position while the Argos didn't factor because of the uncertainty of their ownership.

      The source said the Edmonton Eskimos, one of the few CFL teams to make money, vehemently opposed a union with the WWF, while the B.C. Lions also rejected it.

      The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' stance was unknown.

      "At the end of the day we didn't have enough teams that wanted to proceed," CFL president Jeff Giles said.

      A source said Giles and chairman John Tory supported the WWF initiative, but lacked the backing of board members who wield considerable power.

      Talks began in February, when Giles approached the WWF about buying the Argos. The conversations escalated when the WWF proposed taking over the league.

      The source said there were CFL governors and executives who feared the WWF would create its own league with or without the Canadian teams.

      And, it appears that may happen.

      The WWF has a major football initiative scheduled to be announced today in New York. There is speculation in the football industry the WWF may announce the formation of an outdoor spring league next year.

      Bloomberg News reported last night that the WWF plan would include an eight-game schedule for each team with games on the USA Network.

      Giles said the CFL will be monitoring the announcement, which will be broadcast on satellite.

      Giles said the WWF's initiative may affect the CFL and force it to escalate some of the ideas to be discussed at a strategy meeting in Edmonton in 13 days.

      Giles said if the WWF decides to form its own league, it will create more demand for players and hike salaries. Moreover, the WWF might expand into Canada.

      "I don't think we can take this lightly," Giles said. "We have to take it seriously."

      A source slammed the CFL for failing to take advantage of the opportunity, even though the WWF reportedly failed to sweeten the deal with significant upfront money.

      "They had their chance and they blew it," the source said.

     

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