The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

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The NFL is arguably the most popular sport in America. Television rights to NFL games are the most lucrative and expensive rights of any American sport, and the Super Bowl annually ranks as one of the most-watched television events of the year, let alone one of the most watched broadcasts ever. But how might American's favorite sport translate across our border to the North? If other U.S.-based professional sports leagues are any indication, I imagine the Buffalo Bills would be a success in Toronto.

Unlike some franchises in other sports that have moved south and started a fan base from scratch, the Bills already have a large Canadian fan base. But more compelling is that Toronto teams playing in American professional leagues have performed well in recent years:

The Toronto Raptors led the league in sellouts from 2000 to 2002. More recently, during the 2006-07 regular season, the Raptors averaged 18,258 fans attended each game - good enough to place them 13th in the league. The value of the Raptors franchise has continually risen over the years from US$125 million in 1998 to $315 million in 2006, $373 million in 2007, and $400 million in 2008 according to reports by Forbes.

At $470 million (2009), the Leafs are the most valuable team in the NHL and the Leafs, along with the Minnesota Wild, currently have the longest sellout streaks in the league. The Leafs have the highest average ticket revenue per game in the 2007-08 season.

Although they have a difficult time competing in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays have the largest geographical home market for radio and television in all of baseball, encompassing all of Canada. The team has seen relative success throughout the years and baseball greats like Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Roger Clemens have all worn the Blue Jays' uniform at one point or another.

Most importantly, professional football already exists in Canada. It's played in many high schools and colleges so this would not be introducing a new game to Torontans.

While moving the team would hurt Buffalo, New York's loss is Canada's gain, and the NFL's.

By Jason Maloni  |  December 2, 2009; 1:49 PM ET  | Category:  Buffalo Bills Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Most importantly, professional football already exists in Canada. It's played in many high schools and colleges so this would not be introducing a new game to Torontans."

That is so funny.

And of course there's the CFL, but I guess that's the invisible and unimportant man here. And I guess they'd have to learn to count to four...

It's not like the Argos are a professional team or anything.

Posted by: kiosk | December 3, 2009 9:52 AM

OK, you could read that first sentence differently than I did and see that the Argo's were being somewhat acknowledged.

But still.

Posted by: kiosk | December 3, 2009 9:54 AM

I think it's actually "Torontonians".

Toronto is one of my favourite cities in the world; we go up the QEW every chance we can to spend time there. I haven't gotten the impression from folks up there that it would be necessarily a huge draw, mainly because of the prices they plan to charge to attend a game.

They didn't sell out last year's game, and from what I understand, there will be empty seats tonight.

The question I have is: would the NFL allow the Bills to leave Buffalo without finding a suitable local owner first?

Posted by: obx2004 | December 3, 2009 10:00 AM

The question I have is: would the NFL allow the Bills to leave Buffalo without finding a suitable local owner first?

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i can answer that. ralph wilson will never sell the bills, move maybe but not sell.

my take on all of this is that even though canadiens here are wonderful football fans they are not necessarily bills fans. which doesn't translate well into dollars. in addition, the cost and effort for an american to cross the border for a game is a bit high for this blue collar town.

Posted by: nall92 | December 3, 2009 10:30 AM

"Torontans," eh? The correct demonym is "Torontonian."

As a Canadian, this was very amusing to read.

Posted by: PostNoBills1 | December 3, 2009 11:10 AM

The NHL is a Canadian sports league. The game was invented in Canada and had more teams in Canada in its formative years than the US. But the NHL would have you believe nobody can identify Canada on a map so they need more teams playing in the US.

Posted by: dj1123 | December 3, 2009 12:18 PM

One more thing, did an American second grader write this paragraph, "Most importantly, professional football already exists in Canada. It's played in many high schools and colleges so this would not be introducing a new game to Torontans."

You go from one subject, "professional football in Canada" right to another completely different subject "amateur football in Canada" without differentiating between the Argonauts and how high school and college is played in Canada. Don't the high schools and colleges also play 3 downs with a 55 yard line?

I'm not even going to touch the reference to the people on Toronto.

The paragraph should read:
Most importantly, professional football already exists in Canada with the storied Argonauts. Like in the United States, football is played in many high schools and colleges so this would not be introducing a new game to Torontonians.

Posted by: dj1123 | December 3, 2009 12:22 PM

Toronto loves the Bills, but we don't want to take them away from Buffalo. Can't we just share a little more?

Posted by: lartfromabove | December 3, 2009 12:29 PM

Thanks lartfromabove, those of us from Buffalo appreciate that.

Also remember that while Ralph Wilson is 91, he's not dead yet and has only said that he'll sell the team upon his death so that his estate isn't burdened by the tax implications.

Rogers Communications has been sponsoring the Bills' Toronto games, but since the NFL does not allow corporations to own teams, there needs to be a sufficiently funded Toronto buyer to move the team.

Finally, the Rogers Centre is too small per NFL specifications at 54k seats. The new owner would most likely be asked to build a new stadium to accommodate the league minimum 65k seats.

I love Toronto as a city, but the Bills belong in Buffalo.

Posted by: reiflame1 | December 3, 2009 12:41 PM

We just returned from Grey Cup in Calgary where Montreal beat Saskatchewan in a very exiting game, with just 3 downs. Great game, great fans. Everybody from across Canada comes to Grey Cup, regardless of whether their team is in it. It's a better game with friendly players who don't make near the amount of money that the NFL players make. The Bills should stay in Buffalo; leave the CFL alone.

Posted by: cvitkodiane | December 3, 2009 12:51 PM

"would the NFL allow the Bills to leave Buffalo without finding a suitable local owner first?

Having grown up a Baltimore Colts fan, I think I can answer that...

Posted by: SmittyATL | December 3, 2009 4:11 PM

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