Thank the NDP for the gouging of Winnipeg football fans.
The revelations by Garth Buchko, CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Gougers, in Thursday's Winnipeg Free Press were stunning, even as they sailed over the heads of news reporters and sports pundits alike.
Equally stunning was the extent to which the newspaper went to avoid naming the people responsible for the food-and-beverage fiasco that's come to define the predatory attitude of the Winnipeg football club towards its fans.
But let's start with the bombs dropped by Buchko:
* the team is crippled by debt, and a hairsbreadth from bankruptcy
* the board of directors has executed a silent coup, seizing total control of the football club and turning it into a quasi-private operation
* the harsh no-food, no-drink policy that treats all fans like chiselers was forced on the club by the need to pay off the onerous debt imposed the team by the provincial government as its alleged share of the cost of the new stadium
Whew. Is that all?
Buchko had been running like Usain Bolt to get out from under the controversy over the heavy-handed search-and-seizure tactics of Winnipeg Blue Bombers security staff dedicated to keeping every crumb and every drop of food and drink out of the stadium.
That includes bottled water, bananas, chocolate bars, Certs, right down to fruit juice carried by a diabetic boy as a precaution against insulin shock.
After all, weren't they offering free cups so patrons could drink all the tap water they wanted? The tap water from the taps in the toilets. In the toilets where people piss and shit and puke and then wash their hands under those same taps? It's free, said Garth Buchko, and where's the thanks?
Well, it seems the diabetic boy was the last straw. The fans revolted. And Garth did his usual dance -- the one-eighty.
He was on CJOB Thursday morning explaining that, well, they didn't really mean that absolutely all food was banned from crossing the stadium threshhold. Individual snacks were okay from now on. And while you can't bring bottled water, if you bring a bottle you can fill up with free water at the games from designated water stations, instead of being forced to pony up $3 a bottle (20 cents wholesale).
But while the attention of the news media was being distracted by carrot sticks and H20, the real news in the Free Press story was going unmentioned.
"If we continue to run the team as a normal community-owned team, there's no way we can be responsible for the debt repayment..." Buchko said.
Translation: Community-owned team? That's so yesterday.
According to the deal, the Winnipeg Blue Gougers carry an $85 million mortgage on the $190 million new stadium and have to start paying $4 million a year on the debt next year.
"We're in business to make some money, pay off some debt and be responsible to the community and the taxpayers of the province. Because if we don't make money, then we have a bigger issue," he said.
Translation: The club's priority is making money even if fans don't like it . "Taxpayers of the province" is code for the NDP government, which, like the loan shark, has to get paid.
Three words are missing from the Free Press story.
The three people responsible for the disastrous financing of the new stadium which is choking the life out of the football team starting with the death of the concept of community-ownership.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. In fact, it was literally to be the exact opposite of the way it turned out.
David Asper, playing the Big Shot, declared he would build a $140 million stadium with minimal public investment required. In exchange he wanted to be given the ownership of the team. The deal would erase the team's debt and put them on a stable financial footing with new sources of revenue from the new stadium.
He failed in one of the biggest business flops in recent memory. He couldn't raise a dime for his pet project, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz bailed him out with $4 million in taxpayers' money, and Premier Greg Selinger stepped in and promised to fund the stadium on the province's dime even though the cost had risen to $190 million.
Selinger had to hide the fact he needed to borrow the $190 million, and thereby raise the deficit by that amount. He did it by claiming he wasn't spending any money on a stadium, he was loaning the entire sum to the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg football team who would pay the province back. The fact that the university and the Blue Bombers don't have a nickel between them to spend on a football stadium didn't matter.
Asper, Selinger and Katz are responsible for beggaring the Winnipeg football team, although you wouldn't know it from the Winnipeg Free Press who erased their roles from history.
The team has to gouge fans to, uh, you know, uh, because of uh, security. Yeah, security.
The only deaths we've seen have been the credibility of Selinger, Katz, Asper and Buchko.
Hey, look, it spells S-K-A-B.