September 03, 2004

Montreal Alouettes Secretly Videotaping League’s Coaches to Steal Signals

 Montreal AlouettesCompetitive intelligence…? Maybe. But the Canadian Football League has to decide whether it’s okay:

    Montreal Alouettes president Larry Smith would not say whether his Canadian Football League team will or will not continue to secretly videotape the league's other coaches as a means of stealing signals.

    "Internally, we'll have a chat about it before we make any public statement," Smith said. "But I'm not sure we'll have a public statement, because we look at this as an internal matter.

    Last week, the Alouettes were accused of using video to steal signals for the second time in just more than a month. The allegation was made after security staff at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa removed a man with a video camera midway through the second quarter of the game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Renegades last Thursday. The tape, which was confiscated, showed repetitive close-ups of Ottawa head coach Joe Paopao and assistant Gary Etcheverry as they signaled in plays.

    Stadium security identified the camera operator as Serge Brotherton, the same person Winnipeg Blue Bombers assistant coach Less Browne claimed to have seen taping the Blue Bombers' bench during a game at Ottawa in July.

    Brotherton, who is listed in the Als' media guide as an equipment volunteer, was apparently wearing a Renegades jersey last Thursday while sitting high in the north stands of the Ottawa stadium. According to security records, Brotherton, who was ejected from the stadium, said he had been taping games for years and was unaware of regulations preventing such a practice.

    Smith, however, much like Alouettes head coach Don Matthews, is unapologetic about the incident.

    "We're aware there are other teams that gather intelligence," he said. "The issue is how you do it. Competitive intelligence is part of competitive advantage. Is it bad to have competitive advantage?"

    CFL commissioner Tom Wright said last week that he discussed the signal-stealing issue with the Alouettes after the July incident and let it be known he considered it inappropriate. He also said he told the club he would "appreciate it if they would review it with their staff so it wouldn't continue."

    Yesterday, Smith did not want to discuss the contents of the earlier conversation.

    "We talked about a variety of issues and didn't spend much time on that one," Smith said. "But as a former commissioner, I don't discuss what our conversations are about. If [Wright] wants to make public statements, that falls within his prerogative. But this stays between the two of us because we look at this as an internal matter."

    While the Renegades, Blue Bombers and other CFL teams seem to be opposed to Montreal's tactics, Smith said it's up to the league to rule on the matter.

    "The issue is whether getting competitive information is within the rules of the CFL," Smith said. "That's something that will have to be debated either now or after the season by the commissioner and the governors of the league. If you create a rule, then everyone has to agree. That's how co-operatives or federations work."

    "This is not a case of ethics, because the difference between this and kids taping movies in a theatre is that we are not taking the product, we are taking intelligence to make us better."

    Wright had no comment yesterday beyond saying he has not received a copy of the tape confiscated by the Renegades.

A matter of ethics or not, in this, as in most other CI issues, the Golden Rule probably applies.

- Arik

Posted by Arik Johnson at September 3, 2004 12:51 PM | TrackBack