NFL franchise in Toronto? CFL commish would appreciate partnership

Updated: November 23, 2007, 1:19 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- CFL commissioner Mark Cohon believes all signs point to an NFL team being placed in Toronto.

It's the first time the league has taken such a definitive stance on the subject.

"All of the tea leaves are indicating that it's shifting," Cohon said Friday. "You have guys like Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum and Phil Lind, very powerful Canadians who are interested; you have an owner in Ralph Wilson in Buffalo who has said, 'When I die, my estate will sell the franchise'; you have the Bills interested in marking Toronto as part of their territory, which I believe is indication that, 'Hey, this our territory, we don't want another NFL team coming here.'

"So I think there's all these things lining up as an indication that it could happen. So I'm not sticking my head in the sand. That would be the worst thing for the CFL commissioner to do. So I think there's a real potential."

Speaking at his first state of the league news conference, Cohon said an NFL team in Toronto would threaten the CFL in Southern Ontario, a key region for the league. The CFL has teams in Toronto and Hamilton, and is mulling a return to Ottawa, whose most recent entry into the league went bankrupt in 2006.

Cohon hopes that should the NFL bring a team north, it will do so in partnership with the CFL.

Last month, Wilson petitioned NFL owners to allow the Bills to play one game in Canada for each of the next five years. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it seemed to have general acceptance.

The proposal would involve the Bills playing one home game per season in Toronto for the next five years to help the team expand out of its diminishing market in western New York into Canada's largest metropolitan area. While the Bills have marketed in Canada for years, this would be the first time they played regular-season home games there.

They also would play exhibitions there in 2008, 2010 and 2012 in an effort to generate revenue unavailable in western New York, where the economy has been shrinking.

"It helps expand our market in Buffalo," Wilson said. "It gives us a major metropolitan area to expand our base."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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