SBD/December 2, 2013/Events and Attractions

Crowd For Falcons-Bills At Rogers Centre The Smallest In History Of Toronto Series

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Despite attendance woes, the Bills were paid $78M for the first seven games in Toronto
The Bills yesterday lost to the Falcons 34-31 in OT during their annual Toronto home game, but the Rogers Centre was "well below capacity with 39,869 fans, many of them loud red-jersey-wearing Falcons supporters," according to Rachel Brady of the GLOBE & MAIL (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair notes long security lines at the Rogers Centre "meant the game started with maybe 20,000 souls in the stands and the announced crowd ... was the smallest for any of the six regular-season games here (2012’s game against the Seattle Seahawks was 40,970) and only slightly better than the 39,503 who showed up for a Bills exhibition game against the Indianapolis Colts in August of 2010, which will give ammunition to Bills fans and media critics that see the Bills In Toronto Series as some kind of abomination" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur notes Rogers Centre was "desolate as the Bills were introduced." A Canadian soldier "briefly got stuck rappelling down from the roof." The turf was "dead and grey" (NATIONAL POST, 12/2). In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan notes the Rogers Centre turf "was an issue." The surface "stinks." Players were "slipping on it all day" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/2). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly notes, "When the Bills trotted onto the field, a good section of the crowd booed them. Booed them. In their 'home' game" (TORONTO STAR, 12/2). Falcons RB Steven Jackson said, "We felt the energy. We felt like we had support on the road." Falcons CB Robert McClain: "It did feel like a home game. I seen a lot of red jerseys. I seen a lot of Matt Ryan jerseys and even a couple Mike Vick jerseys" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/2).

IS IT WORTH IT? The GLOBE & MAIL's Blair writes, "By now, smart folks have come to the conclusion this annual game is less a declaration of anybody's intentions than it is a marketing endeavour that must be working for both sides on some level. Why else would it continue?" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/2). In Buffalo, Jay Skurski noted while the series has "been a success off the field" -- the team was paid $78M for the first set of seven games (two preseason, five regular season) and season tickets among those from Southern Ontario are up nearly 10% -- the "atmosphere in each of those four losses in Rogers Centre is best described as bleak." However, Bills coach Doug Marrone "does not look at moving a game from Ralph Wilson Stadium to the Rogers Centre as a competitive disadvantage for his team." He said, "If you go up there and don’t play well, I don’t think you can ever make that turn to where it’s a true-home field advantage. If you do, you can create a great atmosphere up in Toronto. Those fans will eventually come down here and you create a better atmosphere right here. Collectively, that’s what we’re trying to do" (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/29).

STATE OF AFFAIRS: CBS' Jason La Canfora said, "In that Toronto community, where there's a real sense that there's an opportunity to have this be a regional team that bookends Buffalo and Toronto, with maybe the tenor shifting a little bit to Toronto and instead of them getting one or two games, maybe over time they split four and four." CBSSN's Amy Trask: "Buffalo is the only New York team that is actually a New York team and the league feels very, very strongly that it wants Buffalo to remain a New York team. Buffalo is doing its job; Buffalo is trying to expand its fan base; regionalize its fanbase; there are millions of people between Buffalo and Toronto; millions more in the Toronto area, let's not forget Rochester. I think Buffalo is doing what you'd hope they'd do, which is attract the entire region to support them the way Buffalo does." Trask added, "By building that community to be broader than Buffalo, to include Rochester and that pipeline up to Toronto and Toronto, they are strengthening themselves in the New York market" ("That Other Pregame Show," CBSSN, 12/1).

SURVEY SAYS: The CP's Dan Ralph cited a survey conducted in mid-November as showing that an "overwhelming majority of Canadians don't want an NFL team in Canada, especially if it means the demise of the CFL." The survey, conducted by Univ. of Lethbridge sociology professor Reginald Bibby and polling firm Angus Reid Global, showed that 40% of 1,007 online participants said that they "didn't want an NFL team in Canada at all," while another 41% added they would "welcome an NFL franchise in this country only if it co-existed with the CFL." The survey showed that Canadians since '95 have "become more insistent that they'd only want the NFL here if the CFL continued to exist (41 per cent versus 32 per cent)." Also, more "care about the issue now than 18 years ago (50 per cent compared to 33 per cent)." Only 19% of participants would "be happy to see the NFL come to Canada even if it meant the demise of the CFL." The margin of error in the survey is plus or minus 3% (CP, 12/1).
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