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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 30, 2020
The words in her report at the Edmonton Eskimos annual general meeting were strong and succinct.
“Our future is uncertain. There will be difficult times ahead,” said Janice Agrios, chair of the board of directors.
The Eskimos, or Ex-imos should they choose to make a name change that they currently can’t afford, have been the flagship franchise of the Canadian Football League for decades.
It’s a franchise that went into the season last year with $12.9 million in their legendary ‘rainy day fund.’
Well, Wednesday, after the AGM held using Zoom video technology, Agrois said it:
“This would definitely be the rainy day.”
Following the session, in a one-on-one interview with your correspondent, Agrios said the team could be looking at all of that money, every last cent of it, being gone when they get out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When you understand the extent the Eskimos are concerned about their future, where would that leave everybody else in the league?
Agrios predicts a loss of $10 million or more on next year’s financial statement, regardless.
“I think in the range of $10 million would be a fair number,” is how she put it. “We have ongoing expenses and our revenues have gone essentially to zero. Any way you cut it, whether it is a cancelled season or we get to a partial season without fans, the loss is going to be a significant number.”
Is there a chance of wiping all $12.9 million out?
“We don’t know what’s happening in 2021,” said the first female chairman of the board that, back in the day when her father, Jack, was recruited, used to be known as the Nervous Nine. That moniker may about to be reinstated to fit this situation.
“We don’t know what kind of restrictions will be in place for 2021,” she said of whether crowds would be able to return to Commonwealth Stadium. “I think it’s fair to say that even if 2021 returns to be a normal season, we also know it won’t be normal.
“Even if fans are allowed back in the stands in 2021, we know the extent all businesses have been hit and we know that will affect people’s discretionary income and some may not be able to afford to come to games. And some may not be ready to sit in a stadium full of people yet.
“Like everybody else, we’ve cut every area of discretionary spending. Every team, like us, has regrettably had to lay off a number of staff. But you still have insurance, player health benefits, our lease payment to the city and so many things that we can’t cut.
“So are we concerned? We’re extremely concerned!”
The Eskimos have long provided the template for the not-for-profit community-owned franchise, but there’s one significant problem being community owned right now.
“The cash we have is what we have,” said Agrios. “We don’t have an owner who can write a cheque to cover losses. When we run out of money, we run out of money.”
President and CEO Chris Presson had his own perspective.
“There’s no doubt we’re in a better position than most teams,” he said. “I think the challenge is far beyond us, though. What is the financial condition of all the teams in our league collectively? And they might not be in the same position we are. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. Even if we’re able to get to the other side, can every other team come with us?
“Can we all row our boats and get to the other side of the river? And that’s the big question beyond many others.”
The Eskimos, it turned out, rowed their boat rather well considering the circumstances this year.
If it hadn’t been for having to pay their share of the league running the Montreal Alouettes last season — $950,000 — it would have worked out to close to a break-even year, despite woeful weather, the Alberta economy and a fourth-place crossover football team that resulted in a drop in average attendance to 29,217 — a 1.5 percent decline from the year before.
There’s something else to think about here.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Eskimos looking at changing their name.
Regardless of where you sit on that subject — and about 99 per cent of season ticket holders want no change at all — there’s one reality involved with a name change.
It would cost a lot of money.
“We have gone through the exercise of what it would cost and it would be over a million dollars,” said Agrios of the hard costs of things like signage, letterhead and business cards, much less loss of season-ticket holders, represent a hit the team might have a hard time justifying in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020