The Canadian Football league, along with B.C. Lions owner David Braley and Toronto Argonauts co-owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski have issued a joint statement addressing allegations in a Globe and Mail article that reports Braley is a part owner of the Argonauts.
According to a report in the Globe Braley secretly fronted Cynamon and Sokolowski half of the $2 million franchise fee to purchase the Toronto Argonauts out of bankruptcy in 2003 and continued to lend the team money.
The Globe also reports that Braley's actions occured without the knowledge of then CFL commissioner Tom Wright nor current commissioner Mark Cohon.
Cohon addressed the allegations in a statement released by the league on Tuesday, clearing Braley from any wrongdoing.
"Our league is an important Canadian icon, and our fans have every right to expect our governors to do two things: compete with everything they've got on the field, and work together in the best interests of the league, off the field. I have been informed that British Columbia Lions owner David Braley provided financial assistance to Toronto Argonaut owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, as they sought to strengthen our league by strengthening a storied franchise in our largest city. There has been no suggestion, nor is there any evidence, that this financial transaction had any effect whatsoever on the competitive integrity of our game. There is every indication that all three of these gentlemen acted, and continue to act, out of love for the Canadian Football League and respect for its fans. There has also been no breach of the league's Constitution or its bylaws. However, there is clearly a need for improved transparency in such matters. And I intend to work with our Board of Governors to revise our rules so that such financial transactions, no matter how well intended, must be shared with the Commissioner and all governors. I am confident that our teams are competing with everything they've got on the field, and our governors are working in the best interests of our league, off the field. I want our procedures strengthened to ensure perception always matches reality in this regard."
In the same statement, Sokolowski and Cynamon admitted to money being loaned by Braley, but denied any wrong doing or that Braley was in fact a part owner of the team.
"To encourage the purchase of the Toronto Argonauts during a very difficult time in the team's history, David Braley offered financial assistance to us to make the transaction more attractive. This did not breach the league's Constitution or its bylaws. David Braley is not an owner of the Toronto Argonauts and has never been an owner of the Toronto Argonauts nor has he directed in any way the team's operations. David Braley is a staunch supporter of the CFL and has only ever acted to protect the league's best interests."
Similarly, Braley confirmed that he had lent money to the two prospective Argonauts owners but denied that he had any ownership interest in the team.
"I am a passionate supporter of our country and those things which make it unique and strong, including the Canadian Football League. For that reason, at a difficult time in the history of the Toronto Argonauts, I offered Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon financial assistance. While I am always willing to share my business advice and counsel with any of my fellow governors, I have never directed the operations of the Toronto Argonauts, and I have certainly never been an owner of the Toronto Argonauts."
In the Globe article Braley also admitted to having made loans to CFL owners including the group attempting to purchase the Ottawa Rough Riders in the early '90s, two group in Hamilton in the '90s and to former Argonauts owner Sherwood Schwarz.
"From time to time, I help financially and I always get paid back," Braley told the Globe, however he refused comment if that financial assistance included the current Argonauts ownership group.
While Braley continued to deny his ownership of the Argonauts, he did state that he did not consider it unreasonable for one owner in the CFL to hold ownership in another team.
"I don't have [an ownership in the Argos] but it wouldn't be unusual," Braley told the Globe. "The only thing you have to worry about is that football operations are transparent."
Hamilton Tiger-Cats General Manager Bob O'Billovich was on Toronto's Fan 590 Radio station on Tuesday and stood by his former employer.
"David Braley is committed to the Canadian Football League. I know he honestly feels that the league is only as strong as its weakest link," O'Billovich told the Fan 590. "He's always been very active in trying to help, or do what he thinks is right - in the league's best interest. If he did something like that to help it along, more power to him."