The NFL in Toronto: Should It Happen?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Topics: Nfl, Toronto

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  • David Macleod

    who cares, maybe you should do some research on who care before you post uninformed drivel, here a break down of who care and who doesn’t and by the stats Id say the overwhelming majority of canadains prefer their CFL, So far in the playoffs the CFL ratings have trounced the NFL. In the 2nd round,
    the CFL ratings were 46% higher than the NFL’s. In the 1st playoff round the CFL
    ratings were 33% higher than the NFL’s first round.
    The CFL regular
    season ratings were also substantially higher than the NFL’s throughout the 2013
    season.
    Here are the CFL ratings which went head-to-head against NFL
    Sunday games (Nov.17/2013):
    2nd Round CFL
    Playoffs:
    NFL, 1 p.m. games, Sunday, CTV:
    399,000 (Combined ratings of
    1:00 pm NFL games)
    NFL, 49ers at Saints, Sunday, Citytv:
    271,000
    NFL, 4 p.m. games, Sunday, Sportsnet: 162,000
    CFL, West
    Division final, Sunday, TSN: 1,900,000
    CFL, East Division final, Sunday, TSN:
    1,700,000
    CFL Average:
    1,800,000
    2nd Round NFL
    Playoffs:
    NFL, Saints at Seahawks, Saturday, CTV: 1,600,000
    NFL,
    49ers at Panthers, Sunday, CTV: 1,346,000
    NFL, Colts at Patriots, Saturday,
    CTV: 1,100,000
    NFL, Chargers at Broncos, Sunday, TSN: 878,000
    NFL Average: 1,231,000 (Note: CTV NFL ratings include those
    watching sim-subbed American cable stations)
    The 2nd round CFL
    playoff ratings were 47% higher than the
    NFL’s 2nd round, despite the CFL playoffs competing against NFL Sunday, PGA,
    Nascar and World Series (along with NHL, NBA, MLS, Curling, etc)…while the NFL
    had no CFL games to compete against last weekend.
    Here are the
    comparative stats from the 1st playoff round:
    1st Round CFL Playoffs:
    CFL, Lions at
    Riders, Sunday, TSN: 1,621,000
    CFL, Alouettes at Ticats, Sunday, TSN:
    1,450,000
    Average:
    1,535,000
    1st Round NFL
    Playoffs:
    NFL, 49ers at Packers, Sunday, CTV: 1,588,000
    NFL, Saints
    at Eagles, Saturday, CTV: 1,121,000
    NFL, Chiefs at Colts, Saturday, CTV:
    997,000
    NFL, Chargers at Bengals, Sunday, CTV: 869,000
    Average: 1,143,000 (Note: CTV NFL ratings include those
    watching sim-subbed American cable stations)
    In the 1st round, the
    CFL playoff ratings were 33% higher than the NFL’s 1st round. The CFL is truly
    Canada’s most popular football league
    This is why you and your friend can keep driving to buffalo.

    • John Maudsley

      I didn’t mean to offend you, but I just think the NFL is the better league.

      I’ve been an Argo fan as long as I have been a Bills fan, but I find the NFL to be a lot more compelling based on the fact that the best players play there.

      Certainly people do care about the CFL, but that is only a matter of geographic pride. You can’t look me in the eye and say the CFL is superior when we have NFL training camp castoffs as our stars.

      The main point of my article was the NFL coming to Toronto, which has had many champions including Paul Godfrey. I know I’m not the only one who thinks it is a good idea, even at the expense of the CFL. I just think Toronto is a logical choice for a franchise.

      The CFL has a lot in its favour when it comes to ratings. For one, every game is nationally televised, and there are games spread out over the week. Whereas the NFL is regional and all games except 2 are on Sunday.

      PS I think we can both agree, more people in Canada watch the Super Bowl than the Grey Cup, commercials or not.

    • John maudsley

      I did not mean to offend you or anyone else, but I just think the NFL is the better league.

      I’ve been an Argo fan as long as I have been a Bills fan, but I find the NFL to be a lot more compelling based on the fact that the best players play there.

      Certainly people do care about the CFL, but that is only a matter of geographic pride. You can’t look me in the eye and say the CFL is superior when we have NFL training camp castoffs as our stars.

      The main point of my article was the NFL coming to Toronto, which has had many champions including Paul Godfrey. I know I’m not the only one who thinks it is a good idea, even at the expense of the CFL. I just think Toronto is a logical choice for a franchise.

      The CFL has a lot in its favour when it comes to ratings. For one, every game is nationally televised, and there are games spread out over the week. Whereas the NFL is generally regional and all games except 2 are on Sunday.

      Now to the personal things:
      1 – I have never been to Buffalo
      2 – Vocal flake? I merely gave my opinion, as you are.
      3 – No mini-van
      4 – Buffalo is a terrible team, not exactly prime time entertainment.
      5 – London is a whole different ball park.
      6 – Saskatchewan is so passionate because the Roughriders are the only gig in town.
      7 – Where are the Grizzlies these days? Or the Expos?
      8 – I deduce you live in BC. Is that why you are so upset?

      PS I think we can both agree, more people in Canada watch the Super Bowl than the Grey Cup, commercials or not.

    • Justin Jay

      I think this might have been a bit harsh Dave. I think when you’re basing it off of a Canadian audience that has no real emotional investment in an NFL team, of course CFL ratings will be higher. The moment the Buffalo Bills become the Toronto Bills, that would change, especially since the quality in NFL is much greater than the quality in the CFL. You have guys playing in the CFL that couldn’t hack it in the NFL. The best CFL team MIGHT beat the worst NFL team, maybe. Jerious Norwood is NOT better than CJ Spiller or Fred Jackson or Tashard Choice. I bet if you asked Norwood what league he’d prefer to play in, he’d pick the NFL, since he was cut from the Atlanta Falcons prior to joining the Argos.

      I’ll give you a great example. The MLS in the US has gotten much better over the last few years. Talented Colombian players as well as twilight English Premier players have been coming into the league and it’s vastly improved the quality of MLS soccer… however, if there were an opportunity for the Glazer family to bring Man U to Tampa Bay, or John Henry takes Liverpool to Boston, I don’t care how much better or how costly it would be for that to happen as the EPL is a FAR superior league than the MLS. Just like the NFL is FAR superior to the CFL. That’s not American biased. It’s a fact.

      Also, if you are going to be insulting, try to get the grammar correct. All those biased, non-vested interest stats don’t come off sounding that great when you can’t type “Canadians” properly. This is coming from an American, with family from Canada. They read this. They don’t feel the same as you and they live well outside Toronto or Ontario for that matter. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but there was nothing offensive in this article to draw such a remark.

      Hey John, Buffalo doesn’t have a terrible team. I watched enough Bills games this year to notice they’re actually a tough team and Marrone looks like a legitimate coach. If EJ Manuel stays healthy and continues to improve, that team actually looks promising. It’s tough to win games when you’re constantly rotating QBs and having to play against the likes of the Patriots and improving teams like the Dolphins. It also doesn’t help that Ralph Wilson is their owner.

    • David Macleod

      First off, lets get over this talent is so much better than the CFL crap, its a myth. Example, Russel willson was passed over by every NFL team, was on the verge of signing in Montreal, when Seattle gave him a chance at 3rd string, why because he was 5’10, he almost became a CFL QB, is Russel a second rate player, how many Russel Wilson end up in the CFL, ill tell you lots, i can give you a list. Yes the NFL will get the top prospects most of the time, but not by much, and often guys go on to develop even higher once in the CFL. Second, the attitude of is it worth risking the CFL so a few Toronto fans can be happy, i say a resounding no, and so would the rest of Canada, as the TSN poll showed. It drives me to no end this selfish attitude some of you have, thousands of people make a living across Canada, and tens of thousands indirectly, because of the CFL, millions are entertained and the championship is a cultural landmark of the country ( not a chance more people watch Superbowl, 14million tuned into grey cup in 2012) , and you would have it flushed so you can say your watching a very subjective superior product. I watch all the Sea-hawks i want, and don’t need a team in Vancouver, and Vancouver could easily support an NFL team, and our stadium at 55000 seating is by a long shot better than the sky-dome, but you don’t hear anything like this in Vancouver, our media and radio reap praises on the lions, and there’s a strong growing fan base, its only in Toronto you hear this CFL isn’t good enough for us, and its that same attidue is why you wont ever have a team, it because your wanabe fans with an ineriortiy complex rather than true football fans. Had Toronto filled the sky-dome to top and avidly supported the Argos, you might have had a chance, but as its stands no businessman is going to fork out 2.5 billion for 8 games a year. Regardless i hate to rain on your parade but the NFL in Toronto threat is over, MLSE as we speak it working out the details to rebuild BMO into a covered multi use stadium and purchase the Argos, with that deal close to done, and the new TV and corporate sponsorship of the CFL, MLSE will start bringing in profits on the Argos that will grow over the next decade, they wont be interested in threatening that, and with Rogers now losing the Canadian NFL rights and their 5 billion dollar investment in the NHL they are totally focused on hockey, the bills in Toronto series will be dropped because rogers cant even televise it except locally, there no entity or person with the will to cough up the 1 billion dollar price tag and the 1 to 1.5 billion dollar staduim cost. But i guess there always hope Bon Jovi will :). My recommendation is to start supporting the Argos and filling the new 40k BMO stadium, maybe in twenty years the NFL might re think Toronto and this conversation can start up again.