With all due respect to the Buffalo Bills (my favourite team) I have always thought that Toronto deserves its own NFL franchise.
These once-a-season games are fine, but the problem is that in Toronto, or all of Ontario for that matter, the loyalty factor isn’t very high.
Sure we have the Bills nearby, but we also have the Lions just to the West. We will always have bandwagon fans who hop on a team, like San Francisco or Seattle.
Then we have the legacy fans, the ones who are die-hard Packers, Patriots or Bears fans.
Really any other team in the league is likely to find more than a handful of fans in Toronto.
The biggest concern I hear is about the health of the CFL if a NFL franchise were to come up north. I say, who cares.
If they cannot offer a competitive product, they do not deserve the gratitude of fans. Right now the biggest failing of the CFL is its refusal to change its rules in line with the NFL.
All kids in Canada grow up playing 3-down football for their school teams, but 4-down football everywhere else. Especially at home.
The Madden franchise has helped the NFL’s brand grow, and if you were to ask a random person on the street here in Toronto, they would be more likely to know Tom Brady than Ricky Ray.
If you have to look up Ricky Ray, I have proven my point. The CFL just cannot compete with the monstrosity of the NFL’s marketing arm, and so more fans are drawn to the NFL than the CFL.
As a proud Canadian, I can understand the concern over losing a 100+ year institution in the CFL, but the pros far outweigh the cons.
For one it would bring a lot of infrastructure spending, capped with a new football-only stadium.
The city would see huge boosts in hospitality revenues, as NFL fans travel better than any other sport. Finally, it would cement Toronto as one of the best sports cities in the world.
To be the first non-American city with a NFL franchise would be a huge coup. The exposure that the NFL gets is enormous and Toronto could only benefit from an association with the league.
The most logical thing I can think of, is to in effect have the CFL as a 2nd tier league, where much like in European football(soccer) leagues, you can be relegated.
I have always found great appeal in that system, because it would eliminate the concept of ‘tanking’ entirely.
If that cannot be arranged (and it probably won’t), then the league would have to go on as it is, only this time competing directly with the NFL in Toronto.
Would the CFL survive? Probably not, but it would still have a chance to thrive in the West. Is that a risk worth taking? Absolutely.
In the end, the question in my mind isn’t whether we will get a team, but when. The NFL has been exploring the overseas market intently and we could see in the next 25 years a European arm of the NFL.
Not NFL Europe, but a real conference that would go up against the AFC and NFC. This would be amazing if it happened and only grow the prestige of the league.
The NFL has a luxurious luster to it. It has the biggest single game of the year in the Super Bowl, and a growing international fan base.
Canada has always been a strong football market, but we deserve the best. Not second-rate players who can’t make it in the NFL and so move north to continue their career.
We deserve a chance to see 8 games a year against the likes of Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, JJ Watt, Richard Sherman, Calvin Johnson and dozens of other superstars who are a marvel to behold.
Toronto is the lone Canadian market in both the NBA and MLB. I think it’s about time to make a permanent home for the NFL in Toronto.