When you look at the major sporting organizations in the USA, most have welcomed Canadian teams into their competitions with open arms.
The NBA has the Toronto Raptors, the NHL has seven franchises from north of the border, and of course the MLB has the Blue Jays. In the MLS, there’s Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps too, and so that raises the question “why are there no Canadian-based teams in the NFL”?
One of the reasons is that, as far as hockey, basketball and baseball are concerned, there is no rival competition in Canada. And yet, as far as football is concerned, there is the Canadian Football League that those in the country are rightly proud of.
When you think about the pure population data, Toronto is the biggest city in North America not to have an NFL franchise, and third largest city in the USA and Canada full stop.
But the main obstacle, aside from the CFL, is that there isn’t a purpose-built arena to host games in the capital of Ontario or any other Canadian city for that matter.
That may surprise anyone who has visited Toronto in the past, because you may have passed by BMO Field, the 40,000-seat arena on the south coast that hosts both the MLS soccer team and the Toronto Argonauts CFL franchise.
And then, a couple of miles along the coast, there’s the Rogers Centre – formerly known as the SkyDome – which plays host to the BlueJays and also welcomed the Buffalo Bills for the ‘Bills Toronto Series’ between 2008 and 2013.
But the insinuation from an interview with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier in the year is that a ‘stadium up to NFL standards’ is a necessity for any potential expansion franchise, and the belief is that neither the Rogers Centre nor BMO Field are up to the mark.
And then you have the whole chicken and the egg thing: would anyone want to invest in the construction of a shiny new stadium in the city until the NFL officially gives the green light to an expansion franchise?
Hungry for More
Another question is whether or not there is an appetite for elite-level football in Canada. When the Bills head to Toronto for their Series games they have failed on every occasion to sell out the Rogers Centre, and remember this is an impressive franchise that is considered among the frontrunners for honors in the outright NFL odds on bet365 every season – indeed, they have reached the play-offs in two of the last three years.
Meanwhile, the Argonauts play in front of an average audience of around 8,000 people in each of their home games, although for balance the 2020 Super Bowl was watched by a TV audience of 9.5 million people in Canada – the highest figure in more than a decade, and more than double the 4.33 million who tuned in for the 2019 game.
However, the general feeling is that Canadians are happy with their own CFL product, and that the NFL is, in essence, unwelcome in the country. Whether that is true or not – based upon the Bills’ attendance figures compared to those Super Bowl ratings – is open for debate.
For the time being at least, it doesn’t seem as though anybody visiting Canada for a vacation or a business trip will be able to enjoy NFL action any time soon.