Bills Toronto Deal Makes Sense Despite Preseason Problem

If this was any other sport, the Bills would already be playing in another city in a new stadium, or finish near last place each year. The best revenue sharing deal of the four major leagues keeps teams like Buffalo financially afloat, while preventing a Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals situation. However, in a bad economy, a small city especially hit hard by the recession, Buffalo ownership and the NFL made the right move partnering with Toronto.

Buffalo fans are angry and worried about losing the team. Luke Russert wrote an inspiring piece in ESPN magazine that demonstrates the passion of Buffalo fans. His ideas are creative, but unlikely. Remember there are 29 other owners that probably don’t care for that type of risk.

On the other hand, the CFL is concerned about an NFL invasion. They have cause for concern. The CFL is a minor league compared to the NFL. If Toronto wants the NFL, if the fans would rather watch the NFL than the CFL and prove that in the box office, that’s the CFL’s problem. Instead of trying to protect their ground, the league should propose to partner with the NFL. Perhaps an opportunity exists to become the training ground NFL Europe never became, or the minor leagues the NFL lacks. Bottom line competition benefits the consumers and the product. If the CFL is worried about the NFL instead of complaining improve the product and make it more appealing than the NFL. It’s possible without changing the personnel on the field, look at the success of minor league baseball.

Critics point to the lack of ticket sales for the initial preseason game as a sign the deal may fail. Preseason games are preseason games for a reason. When the Meadowlands is half empty for a Jet or Giant preseason game does anyone worry about having a sell-out on opening day? Of course not. Who wants to pay an exorbitant fee to see the stars play one quarter and a glorified tryout for three quarters? Especially with the high prics Rogers charged in Toronto the preseason game did not sell out. The Bills added preseason games into the deal to save money, just like teams force fans to buy preseason tickets if they want regular season tickets. Either way, Buffalo gets its money no matter how the tickets sell.

Almost $80M over five years catapults Buffalo into new revenue territory. They risked alienating fans and potentially damaging the brand value locally, however fans forgive teams. Similar to when teams raise ticket prices or move season ticket holders to bad seats in the playoffs or eliminate parking spots, eventually the new way becomes status quo. Fans will grow accustomed to one game in Toronto. When Buffalo uses their new revenue infusion to sign a big free agent, fans will really love Toronto.

The deal is risky for Rogers, who brings the sport to unchartered territory. How many Bills fans are in the Toronto area and just how much do Canadiens love the NFL? Interesting questions, yet to be answered. Rogers is relying on tremendous fan interest to pay ridiculously high ticket prices to make the deal financially worthwhile. That business model remains questionable, especially in years 3-5 when the game is no longer a novelty. If Buffalo is not competitive will fans turn out at those prices?

Buffalo fans should rejoice because this deal may prevent the franchise from moving. Who cares about losing preseason games? Watching a Bills home game on television may sting a bit, but realize it makes the other seven games possible. In addition to the fee from Rogers, Buffalo also opens the door for countless new sponsors for the Toronto series, a new line of merchandise and logo to sell, additional media exposure, and potentially new fans. The team needs to present the issue to fans as a positive to preserve loyalty and be smart about how the Toronto games are handled – make it an enjoyable experience for the fans, make it feel like any other pro football game, while staying true to their Buffalo roots.


One Response

  1. ya really, thanks Toronto for bailing out poor old Buffalo. -you THANKLESS buffola fans !
    and reading articles from CTV and National Post you’d think Canada was losing its identity again.

    Ya I know Ted Rogers is nuthin but a greedy low-down sneak who could care less about Canada let alone the average canadian.
    BUT Hey !!! this is the NFL, the nfl and cfl is like comparing a shark to a lake perch. If we are even lucky Canada(Toroonto) might get ONE NFL franchise team.
    The CFL as well as Universities across Canada could definitely benefit from this,… for many reasons.
    Fans, -are you kidding EVERYONE I know in canada loves the NFL.
    I can see the future headlines now (well maybe not in my lifetime but, ?):

    …The NFL “Toronto Great-Lakers” wins SUPERBOWL LV in a historic game against the legendary Pittsburgh STEELERS.

    -naaaa, I’m always gonna be a STEELERS fan -Go Steelers !!!


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