INDIANAPOLIS — A five-year agreement between the Buffalo Bills and Toronto media giant Rogers Communications expires in 2012, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems confident that the two parties will reach a new pact to extend the Bills Toronto Series into 2013 and beyond.
Goodell noted at his annual state of the league press conference here in Indy that there are ongoing discussions between Rogers and the Bills and that he’s been in contact with both sides.
“I believe there’s a willingness and an interest to extend the agreement,” he said, “and we’ll work to help support that.”
In 2008, Rogers agreed to pay the franchise $78 million to bring five regular-season games and three preseason games to Rogers Centre. The final two games of that arrangement will be played next year, with one in the preseason and one in the regular season.
It’s an agreement that has predictably garnered negative feedback in both communities. Torontonians haven’t exactly accepted the Bills with open arms, with inflated ticket prices and a lack of on-field success dampening the enthusiasm. And while the majority of Bills fans seem to grasp that the money from the accord has been key to their team’s survival, they don’t like losing a home game each year.
But the commissioner spoke specifically about the positive impact the series has had on the Bills.
“As a guy from Western New York, we know how important the Bills are for Western New York — how important they continue to be to that community,” he said. “One of the things they’ve done very effectively is regionalize that team to broaden its exposure.”
“The series has been very helpful to the Bills, building that fan base. We’ve seen the kind of response and what it’s done for season-ticket sales down in Buffalo, and to try to help that franchise broaden their appeal.”
While Goodell didn’t touch on possible expansion to Toronto, the likely extension of the Bills deal would take Southern Ontario out of the running for its own team. And frankly, Goodell’s in Buffalo’s corner — which sort of means he’s not in Toronto’s. So long as Ralph Wilson owns the team and Goodell reigns over the league, the Bills will remain in Buffalo and Toronto will remain NFL-free for approximately 363 days a year.
Goodell said expansion isn’t something the league is even thinking about right now.
“It’s not something that’s on our agenda,” he said. “It’s not something we’ve focused on with our membership, and I don’t see that in the foreseeable future. We want to keep our teams where they are, we believe that’s healthier for the league in the long term.”
But more teams means more money, and one of the commissioner’s primary objectives is to generate — and increase — profits for the league’s 32 owners. Eventually, you’d have to think that expansion will jump onto the agenda, especially if teams in St. Louis, Minnesota, Oakland and San Diego benefit from a bounce back in the economy and/or a stadium fund included in the new collective bargaining agreement.
And when that day comes, the commish says the league will add two teams, not one — something that should be music to the ears of those hoping for Toronto to land its own team at some point down the line.
Or those who want Los Angeles to land a pair of franchises, which — unbelievably — isn’t a far-fetched notion.