SBD/Issue 129/Franchises

Bills Confirm Rogers' Interest In Hosting More NFL Games In T.O.

If Bills Agree To Toronto Games For '10-12, Team
Would Play 25% Of Home Games Outside Buffalo
The Bills Sunday confirmed Rogers Communications' "interest in taking a second regular-season Bills game to Toronto for 2010, 2011 and 2012 -- a move that, if approved, would have the team playing 25[%] of its home games away from Ralph Wilson Stadium," according to a front-page piece by Warner & Gaughan of the BUFFALO NEWS. A Bills source yesterday indicated that Rogers Communications, which had a "tough time selling out its two games last season, went to the Bills to ask for more games and that the Bills were agreeable to the idea of Rogers polling its customers." The "benefit to Rogers, besides increasing its stake in the NFL, would be to earn a bit more profit if it paid the Bills less for the additional games." The Bills have said that they were "ecstatic about their business partnership with Rogers, about the sponsorship and ticket-selling opportunities in southern Ontario -- and about the team's profits under the deal." The city of Buffalo was "abuzz Monday about the prospect of the Bills moving another foot out the door toward Toronto" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/24).

BORDER PATROL: In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes it is "indeed baffling that in the worst economic conditions in recent history that Rogers Communications has become even more aggressive in its pursuit" of the Bills. Simmons: "How else to interpret the Rogers' questionnaire, clearly attempting to increase the eight-game Bills series in Toronto to 11 [NFL] games between now and 2012? It becomes even more confounding when [the original deal] was a bad one from the beginning for Rogers -- we're told they lost $7[M] on the first NFL games in Toronto." If Toronto gains a second regular-season game during the three years, it "complicates the possibility of a sale to someone who would be playing 25% of its home schedule outside the country." Simmons notes a corporation "cannot own an NFL team," as an individual "must own at least 30% of a team's shares." Sources yesterday said that there are "still those willing to stand up and be the 30% owner of a Toronto franchise, but it isn't specifically known who that someone would be" (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).

Toronto Series GM Says Deal With Bills Could
Be Reopened To Add More Games In Toronto
SURVEY SAYS: Bills Toronto Series GM Adrian Montgomery said that the questionnaire was "simply part of off-season research into serving fans better." Montgomery: "Our deal is for eight games over five years, and that's it. This was a purely hypothetical conversation, and even if we one day got to the point where more games were added to the schedule, that would have to meet a host of internal and external approvals first." When asked if the existing deal "could be reopened to accommodate more games," Montgomery said, "We have a strong partnership with the Buffalo Bills, so as we collectively look to making this series better and better there's a great platform to do things like that" (TORONTO STAR, 3/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's Stephen Brunt writes under the header, "Make No Mistake: Rogers Wants Bills In Toronto." Rogers "appears poised to considerably increase its commitment," and instead of "backing off, it wants to get in deeper, in a very challenging business environment." Since "no one believes the Bills in Toronto series is a cash bonanza unto itself -- ticket prices will be adjusted downward, starting with this year's game -- there must be some larger goal in mind." Rogers "would love to have an NFL team as a stadium tenant, would love to work in partnership with someone else ... if a team were to become available full-time" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/24). But ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, "I wonder how the Argonauts of the CFL feel about having another home team join them in Canada?” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/23).

FORWARD PROGRESS? NFL.com's Vic Carucci reported the NFL is "still sorting through potential opponents" to face the Bills in Toronto this season. A source indicated that the list "includes at least one team," the Buccaneers, but "that isn't nearly as sexy as" the Colts, who were previously reported as a possible opponent. The Colts were "one of the biggest-drawing cards on the Bills' schedule" because of QB Peyton Manning. However, the NFL "appears to be leaning more strongly in the direction of choosing an NFC team." It was "originally speculated that the league would make an announcement about the game during" the league's meetings currently taking place in Dana Point, California, this week, but that is "not expected to be the case" (NFL.com, 3/23).

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