Editors square off over Bills franchise in T.O. - Part 1

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Football is maybe the most popular sport in North America.

Historically, Canadians receive their pigskin fix by way of the CFL. The CFL has been around since Keith Richards thought marijuana was a hard drug. It’s a league that has prospered in certain markets like Regina and Edmonton.

What astute southern Ontario businessmen should understand, if they haven’t already, is the CFL isn’t cutting it for southern Ontarians. Largely thanks to economics, the Golden Horseshoe has far more in common with New York and Michigan than other parts of Canada. The region is one of the more highly populated areas on the continent and we want the best football there is to offer.

Answer: move on up here, NFL.

It might not happen overnight, but eventually the NFL should move the Buffalo Bills franchise to Toronto. The GTA is worthy of an NFL team.

Sure, it wouldn’t be a seamless transition. A new stadium would have to be built, I would suggest in Mississauga " a large suburb next to Toronto where there’s room to have a large stadium (indoor if necessary), ample parking for tailgating purposes and convenient highway access.

Don’t think Ontario football fans are worthy of the NFL? Consider this, sports fans: how many of your football-watching friends follow the NFL? How many of them (particularly those younger than 45) have a favourite team? Be it the Bills, Packers, Lions, Patriots or Cowboys, southern Ontario fans latch onto a team and watch fervently.

I don’t want to slight longtime New York or Niagara region Bills fans. They truly are passionate and considering the team is located in one of the poorer cities in America, Bills fans are committed troopers for braving the cold of Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But let’s be realistic for a second. Everything about Toronto screams big-market, big-ticket city. There are already three teams in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Bills draw from upstate New York, but Toronto (or Mississauga) is not a long commute for Americans living near the border.

Most importantly, the relocated NFL franchise opens itself to a more extensive audience. With roughly five million people in the GTA, including the Bills’ pre-existing fans from southeastern Ontario and upstate New York, the demand for tickets will skyrocket. The lucrative TV contract that follows would also greatly boost the team’s revenue.

There is much talk of Los Angeles getting an NFL franchise because of its massive population and the fat TV deal; it follows that the Toronto area would offer similar benefits to the relocated Bills.

Even for the players: are you going to tell me that living in downtown T.O. or on Oakville’s lakefront is less appealing than fledgling, industrial Buffalo? I think not.

The bottom line is that southern Ontarians love the NFL. They would support a franchise and the team will increase its fan base to the point where it will be able to raise ticket prices from the modest Buffalo levels.

To me, it’s not a matter of “if” Toronto will get an NFL franchise " it’s “when.”

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