Rogers calling Buffalo Bills to Toronto


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 in a statement.

The NFL on Tuesday heard a bid from the Buffalo franchise to play one pre-season game in 2008 at the Rogers Center in Toronto, and at least one regular-season game 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 in their own release.

The proposal follows a meeting between the Bills franchise 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 Toronto Blue Jays to spearhead an NFL bid in Toronto.

Also in the mix for a possible NFL franchise in Toronto are the owners of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts, which already plays its regular-season football games at the Rogers Center.

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

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

But the Canadian press is filled with speculation that the NFL and the Bills franchise 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.

Innes added that Rogers is "excited" about the opportunity for Rogers Center should the NFL team owners approve Bills games relocating to Toronto.