NFL ‘floated’ idea of Toronto expansion at owners’ meeting: report

Photo courtesy: Perry Knotts/NFL

The NFL may be making a return to Toronto, and this time it might be a little more permanent.

The owners from North America’s most powerful sporting entity met in New York at the end of October to discuss league issues and according to NFL insider Benjamin Allbright, they turned their eyes north when discussing growth.

“I know one of the things that was floated out a the owners’ meeting recently was the potential for expansion. They know they want to get to 18 games here in a season soon and having 36 teams sort of gives you a more round number, since 18 is half of 36, with regard to scheduling,” Allbright said on ESPN radio in St. Louis earlier this month.

“The four sites that had been thrown up there as potential expansion sites to begin with would be London, Toronto, San Antonio, and then possibly St. Louis. That was tabled. That was put out there.”

The inclusion of Canada’s largest city on that list will be the headline-grabber for fans north of the 49th, but should come as no surprise. Toronto had already been pegged as the likeliest destination for a new international series game in 2022 and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that he would ‘love to see’ games played in Toronto.

The Buffalo Bills played the role of home team for the only regular season games ever put on in Canada, which all came during the Bills in Toronto series. Buffalo played one regular season game per year from 2008 to 2013 at Rogers Centre. Toronto mayor John Tory has been ‘open to the idea’ of a similar arrangement returning, but that could be more permanent.

Rumours circulated earlier this summer that Argos’ ownership group Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was enthusiastically pursuing talks with the XFL in the hopes of leveraging an NFL franchise for the city down the line. That has long been a goal of MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Goodell has said in the past that Toronto would be “a great city for an NFL team,” but there needs to be a state-of-the-art stadium for a franchise there. That means dreams of NFL expansion could take awhile.

“There are in the exploratory phase on that stuff, so that’s not something that’s coming soon,” Allbright echoed. “That’s in the, ‘Is this feasible? Is this financially viable? Is this something that if those things are true that we want to pursue?’ [phase]. They’re looking at it.”

The almighty dollar will ultimately decide whether the NFL sees The Six as a viable option, with potentially massive ramifications for football across Canada.