It has been widely reported (see this link and the original SI story) that a Canadian consortium, presumably based in Toronto, offered $1b for the New Orleans Saints last year. The offer was rejected, but I was not surprised to learn of the offer. Paul Godfrey, President of the Toronto Blue Jays has lobbied everyone he meets for several decades to try to put together some way to get an NFL franchise in Toronto, and Ted Rogers (one of the rumoured members of the consortium) owns the Toronto Blue Jays. Given the timing of the offer (shortly after Katrina), they might have re-named the team, "the Toronto Vultures."
For many good reasons, Stephen Brunt thinks it is unlikely that Toronto will succeed in its attempts to land any NFL franchise in the near future. Here are some of the reasons he puts forward:
- the league is not desperate to grow right now beyond its current 32 teams, meaning there will not likely be a new NFL franchise available for quite some time. So if Toronto is to obtain a franchise, it will have to be an existing one.
- the league does not see Canada as a prime market. Having a team in Toronto would not add much to the league's television base but might subtract from it.
- the league's first priority is to place a franchise in Los Angeles, a major US market.
- the NFL has no interest in harming the CFL, which would surely happen to some extent if there were an NFL franchise in Toronto. The CFL provides valuable player-inventorying and finishing services for the NFL.
- there are no NFL franchises being actively offered, but there are several active buyers seeking a franchise.
- Buffalo might object [EE: but so what? Teams don't have veto power and exclusive territories in the NFL (unlike MLB), do they? Wasn't that settled by the Raiders/Davis v. NFL antitrust suit?]
Brunt's most likely scenario for Toronto's obtaining a franchise is that Buffalo might eventually be bought and moves there. Toronto isn't a great distance from Buffalo, which currently attracts many fans from southwestern Ontario. But another possibility might be Jacksonville, if and when that franchise becomes available.
But really, let's face it. An NFL franchise in Los Angeles would be worth so much more than one in Toronto, it is difficult to imagine the Toronto consortium's outbidding competitors from the Los Angeles area. .... unless, of course, they are willing to pay one heck of an "ego premium".
Update [via Skip]: Chris Young at the Toronto Star sent his blog post of three weeks ago, which includes a timeline of discussions relating to a potential Toronto franchise, dating back to 1986. Sounds a bit like "Waiting for Godot"!