Buffalo migrate to Toronto to pay the Bills

Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:09pm EST
 
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - In the 1970s the Canadian government barred the door to American football expansion into the Great White North, introducing legislation to block its move across the world's longest undefended border.

The National Football League (NFL) was back knocking on its northern neighbor's door last week, however, when the Buffalo Bills took the first step towards what many believe will be a permanent move to Toronto, confirming details of an eight-game series to be played in the Canadian city starting next season.

The plan, which includes five regular-season games and three pre-season contests spread out over the next five years, was announced during the Super Bowl festivities in Phoenix but officially unveiled last week during a news conference at the Rogers Centre that will be the Bills' new part-time home.

Bills owner Ralph Wilson and Canadian billionaire Ted Rogers, owner of the Rogers Centre and Major League Baseball (MLB) side Toronto Blue Jays, refused to be drawn into speculation over long-term plans for the Buffalo franchise.

Neither would they deny the possibility of an NFL franchise settling in Canada.

Wilson said Buffalo was no longer capable of supporting the team alone and that the foray into Toronto was necessary to ensure the franchise's survival.

As Buffalo watches its population decline and unemployment rise, just 160 km away on the other side of the Peace Bridge lies Toronto, North America's fifth largest sports market and Canada's financial hub with its untapped potential corporate sponsors all made more attractive by the soaring Canadian dollar.

"The town of Buffalo, and it's no secret, is diminishing in size," Wilson told reporters. "Buffalo is dwindling in population, in jobs. People don't have jobs, they move out.   Continued...

 
<p>Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and President and Chief Executive of Rogers Communications Inc, Ted Rogers (L), speak to the media about bringing the NFL to Toronto, in Toronto, February 6, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>