Rogers on NFL scout team

Cabler out to lure Bills to Toronto

Ted Rogers, founder and controlling shareholder of Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications, has launched a consortium to bring the NFL's Buffalo Bills to Toronto — at least for a game.

Toronto-based Rogers, who also owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club, has teamed with Larry Tanenbaum — a minority shareholder in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which runs the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey and Toronto Raptors basketball teams — to help the financially strapped Bills expand their footprint into southern Ontario.

"While no agreement has been reached and many approvals would still be required, the group is optimistic that Toronto could soon share in the NFL experience," Rogers and Tanenbaum said.

The NFL on Tuesday heard a bid from the Buffalo franchise to play one exhibition game in 2008 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and at least one regular-season game there in 2009.

"The team hopes to capitalize on the increasing interest of fans in the Canadian market by playing a regular-season game in Toronto," the Bills said.

The proposal follows a meeting between the Bills and Rogers Communications vice chairman Phil Lind, Tanenbaum and Paul Godfrey and Dale Lastman of Toronto legal firm Goodmans Llp.

On Wednesday, Rogers Communications denied media reports that Godfrey was about to resign as president and CEO of the Blue Jays to spearhead an NFL bid in Toronto.

Also in the mix for an NFL franchise in Toronto are the owners of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts, which play its games at the Rogers Centre.

Ted Rogers has long coveted an NFL franchise in Toronto. In addition to the Blue Jays, he owns and operates Rogers Sportsnet, a regional sports cable channel that airs Sunday NFL telecasts, and runs the AM-FAN 590 radio station in Toronto, which has begun to air Bills games.

Both the Bills and Rogers Communications deny that the plan to play NFL games at Rogers Centre is a prelude to relocating the Buffalo franchise north of the border.

But the Canadian media is filled with speculation that the NFL and the Bills would jump at the chance to sell season tickets and corporate boxes in Toronto, headquarters for many top Canadian companies.

Jan Innes, a Rogers Communications spokeswoman, confirmed that Ted Rogers and Tanenbaum have held discussions with the Bills franchise but insisted no deal to bring games across the border has been finalized.
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