CFL postpones decision on '96 Grey Cup


Jim Speros' quest to bring a Grey Cup to Baltimore was put on hold yesterday when the Canadian Football League's board of governors postponed a decision on the 1996 championship game site.

The league announced a telephonic vote would be taken no later than Aug. 1.

Undeterred by the delay, Speros, the owner of Baltimore's CFL expansion team, said the city remains the favorite in its bid to be the first non-Canadian host to the Grey Cup.

"I think this favors Baltimore more so than anything," he said after the one-day meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, where representatives from Baltimore, Hamilton, Ontario, and Edmonton, Alberta, made 30-minute presentations.

"I'd like to have a decision today. [But] I do like the process. I think the process is fair. What's encouraging for Baltimore is the grid [a chart comparing bids] doesn't lie. It breaks everything down. After reading it, I feel very confident Baltimore will end up on top. I feel better about our chances now than I did before."

The process hit a snag when some key points in the bids of Baltimore and Hamilton were unclear.

"We have tax questions and we have revenue-sharing questions that unfortunately couldn't be answered," said CFL commissioner Larry Smith.

Baltimore fielded the tax questions. The governors want to know how much of Speros' $3.1 million guarantee will come to the league after withholding tax is subtracted. "That's an important piece of information," Smith said.

Hamilton was left with the revenue-sharing question. "We have suggested splits [among teams]," Smith said, "but we want to know how much they're splitting."

Speros said the game would be awarded on the basis of a financial decision, not an issue of nationality. "That was not even an issue here," he said. "It comes down to dollars and cents. I'd be worried if I was the lowest bidder, but I'm the highest bidder by substantially more than Hamilton and Edmonton."

He said his bid exceeded those of the other cities by $700,000.

Speros also resisted a compromise solution that would have Hamilton taking the 1996 game and Baltimore getting the 1997 game. "I want '96 and '96 only," he said. "I don't want a compromise. We've prepared for '96. We did an outstanding job. The fact the mayor [Kurt L. Schmoke] was there was a huge help to us.

"We have the largest venue, the most parking, the most hotels. I think our presentation stirred up the most questions and the most interest."

Also in the Baltimore entourage were Tom Matte, a limited partner in the team, and Wayne Chappell, who heads Baltimore's convention and tourism board.

Roger Yachetti, chairman of Hamilton's board of directors, was not in favor of the compromise plan, either.

"We talked about it, but my feeling is it would be unfair to the other cities that didn't bid this time, but would bid for '97," Yachetti said.

He did like a proposal that would alternate Grey Cups between Canadian and American cities.

"I'm in favor," he said. "My objection to Baltimore now is we'd be seen as opportunistic. No question Baltimore should host someday, but '96 is too soon."

Yachetti said he was disappointed there was no decision yesterday, but in contrast to Speros, felt the extension put Hamilton in good position.

"There are a couple of issues that need clarification and I think the clarification will help Hamilton," he said.

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