SBD/September 4, 2013/Franchises

MLSE Reportedly Eyeing CFL Argonauts With Goal Of Bringing NFL Team To Toronto

The Argos could help MLSE show that pro football is viable in Toronto
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is "kicking the tires" on a potential purchase of the CFL Argonauts with a long-term goal of bringing an NFL franchise to Toronto, although "nothing is imminent," according to sources cited by Frank Zicarelli of the TORONTO SUN. The "'For Sale' sign has yet to be erected, but eventually" Argonauts and B.C. Lions Owner David Braley will "divest himself of the Argonauts." A top MLSE exec recently "toured the Argos’ football facility." The "questions remain when and who ultimately ends up owning the team at a time when Braley isn’t getting any younger -- and eventually he’ll have to sell both" the B.C. Lions and Argonauts. B.C. Lions operations "both on and off the field are ideal, making any sale a slam dunk." Sources said that the fact MLSE has "taken a look at the Argos, even in a peripheral way, speaks to a vision that clearly involves the NFL." Football among major sports is "the one missing jewel in the MLSE structure," but "to play with big boys it will involve MLSE pursuing the Argos." The "theory is that MLSE will need to show the NFL it can make a football product viable ... by investing the money necessary to build a full-time facility and perhaps even a new football stadium." If MLSE "ends up owning the Argonauts, it could help prevent the NFL from looking like the bad guy if ... the CFL ends up suffering from the increased football competition in the battle for TV viewers and media interest." Zicarelli writes of a potential deal, "There are many moving parts and so much that needs to be done that nothing is expected to get done anytime soon" (TORONTO SUN, 9/4).

EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER? In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote Argonauts fans have responded to the team's Grey Cup championship last year "by staying away in droves this season." The Argos in their last four home games "have averaged less than 20,000 customers, a combination, undoubtedly, of many factors including an inability to secure consistent and appealing home dates from Rogers, which owns the dome but gives the Blue Jays preference." The team has "played on a Friday, a Thursday, a Tuesday, a Sunday, a Friday again and now a Tuesday again." The CFL "remains a very tough sell in this market" (THESTAR.com, 8/30).
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