Bills announce postponement of Toronto series


Rob Ford will need to find another reason to eat chicken wings in public.

The Bills and Rogers Media have issued a joint statement announcing that the annual Toronto series has been postponed for a year.

“The Buffalo Bills and Rogers are committed to delivering a first-class NFL experience to Canadians,” Bills CEO Russ Brandon and Rogers Media president Keith Pelley said, perhaps simultaneously.  “As such, we have postponed for one year the scheduled 2014 regular season game at Rogers Centre in Toronto, and that game will return to Ralph Wilson Stadium.  We will use this time to collectively evaluate opportunities and build on the foundation to enhance future games.

“We are committed to continuing our partnership and have secured a robust sponsorship agreement for the 2014 season that will bring Canadian NFL fans visibility and access to the Bills. The sponsorship includes ticketing, merchandising, media exposure, and a newly created Canada House, near Ralph Wilson Stadium, that will serve as the official pre-game Canadian tailgate zone for all Bills home games.”

So, basically, the Bills have moved their annual Toronto game from Toronto to . . . Buffalo.

The move comes only one year after the Bills renewed their agreement to play in Toronto, a decision that came after only 40,000 showed up to watch the Seahawks blast the Bills, 50-17, during the 2012 edition of the game.  The 2013 crowd was even smaller, prompting the team’s desire to stop playing there, at least for now.

The Toronto experiment can’t yet be deemed a failure, but it’s getting very close.  If/when the plug is pulled, the Bills will take one step far closer toward leaving Buffalo.

While fans didn’t like the effort to create a regional footprint for the team, owner Ralph Wilson realized that expanding the fan base would be the best way to keep the team in Buffalo.  If that doesn’t work, there’s little chance that the highest bidder for the Bills, which will be sold after the 95-year-old owner passes, will be able to keep the team in Buffalo.

55 responses to “Bills announce postponement of Toronto series

  1. Living in Toronto I can tell you that the Rogers Center (Formerly the SkyDome) is absolutely the worst stadium to watch an NFL game in. It was designed to accommodate a CFL size field which results in an NFL field being way to far away from the stands. This leaves the fan base feeling separated from the game.
    I honestly believe it could work if we had batter venue, but until that happens, let it go…

  2. Living in Toronto I can tell you that the Rogers Center (Formerly the SkyDome) is absolutely the worst stadium to watch an NFL game in. It was designed to accommodate a CFL size field which results in an NFL field being way to far away from the stands. This leaves the fan base feeling separated from the game.
    I honestly believe it could work if we had a better venue, but until that happens, let it go…

  3. Toronto for the most part doesn’t care about the Bills. I the value of the US dollar where it is and the strength of the Canadian dollar, coupled with how bad the Bills have been (more tickets available) speak more to why more Canadians are attending the games. If you take the Toronto game away I think Canadian attendance will move along at its current rate.

  4. This is great news for the time being! All bets are off when the current lease on the stadium expires, of course. But that would be the case whether or not the Bills had games in Toronto. Maybe this give the Bills a better chance to *win games* in the meantime.

  5. Good. The Bills are a terrible team, no one in this world class city wants to see a 5 win team every year in an awful dome. Bring an real NFL team and you’ll get an audience.

  6. The best way to increase their regional footprint is to put a product on the field that is worth watching.

    As a lifelong Bills fan, it is hard to even watch the product that is being put on the field.

  7. The Toronto mayor is more entertaining than the games being played there.

  8. First the city council takes away most of his executive powers; now the NFL takes away the Bills. How much longer before Ford is living in a van…DOWN BY THE RIVER?

  9. How do you fix a combination of a perennial bad team playing a game in an equally bad stadium?

  10. If anyone firmly believes that the Bills are a front-runner to move, you’re out of your mind.

    We’ve been a bad-to-mediocre team for years. We’ve got the longest active playoff drought. We haven’t had an above average QB in over a decade. And yet the stadium still sells out, merchandise still sells and since they are the only team actually located in NYS, they’re not fighting anyone else for taxpayer dollars in their pursuit for a new stadium.

    Buffalo is the only place this team is viable. Canada clearly doesn’t care as much about Buffalo football as people expected them to. Look at how the Clippers are suddenly the hot team in the NBA and now the Lakers can’t sell out a game? Or how the Raiders and St. Louis have BOTH come and gone from L.A. That city only cares about winners…how do you sell them The L.A. Bills? You don’t.

    I firmly believe that a new owner would keep the Bills in Buffalo just for the sake of trying to break even until they become successful.

  11. I believe it can in fact be deemed a failure. Why would they want to watch it? Hockey is still a man’s game. The NFL is going to start throwing flags for saying bad words on the field and probably start sensitivity training so everyone will be nice to their teammates.

  12. Postponement, how about ceasing of operations?

    This idea failed.

    Then again when you win once in Toronto and people from Buffalo don’t go usually go up there you have a bad business model.

    Not to mention the SkyDome has not been the opposite of filthy since Roger Clemens last played there.

  13. The Bills can’t leave Buffalo.
    It’s too good of a tradition up there and some real tru-blue fans. I know too many upstaters that would be crushed.
    They appear to be moving in the right direction. Give this team a year or two for Brady to retire and it will be just fine.

  14. I am in Toronto and knew from the start this was destined to fail.

    1. Toronto is an NFL-town not a Bills town.

    2. The Bills have stunk since Flutie.

    3. It is cheaper to drive to Buffalo and watch a game there than it is to take the subway and buy a ticket to a game at the Rogers Centre (yes, that is how we spell it).

    4. Did I mention the Bills stink?

  15. The Bills never sold out games, even when they were getting to the Superbowl every year. Lets face the reality, that the NFL is too big now to be playing in these small cities. In 1966, Buffalo was the 20th most populated city in the US, now its 72nd. I dont know why people leave out facts like these when describing this particular issue. And its not like upstate New York is a football hotbed, like you could say with Green Bay to justify them having a team.

  16. Except for the Leafs, whom the dummies in Toronto will support till their dying days, the Toronto fan base is primarily of the ‘fair-weather’ and ‘bandwagon’ type. Win and you will pack that Dome like they did for the Blue Jays so many years ago. Lose…and well you get luke warm attendance at best. Bring in a winning team or in the abscence of such, a trendy team like the Cowboys and the dome will be filled. Bring in the Bills and you get what you get. That’s just how the Toronto fan base rolls.

  17. Has there been any evidence the regional footprint idea is working? The cities are only 100 miles apart. Seems like if Canadians really wanted to attend Bills games, they could travel to Buffalo with minimal effort. Plenty of NFL fans drive that far to see their home team every Sunday. Only thing that I see happening is the local Buffalo fans end up losing a home game.

  18. “angrytwitterguy says: Mar 5, 2014 10:26 AM

    Can’t wait till Toronto gets a team and destroys the Buffalo market.”


    Fat chance. 6 Million people or so in the GTA and the best Toronto could do is 40,000 fans? Except for the Loser Leafs, Toronto fans are a lazy, apathetic bunch only willing to plunk down for the winning team of the month or trendy teams. The NFL won’t waste it’s time and put a permanent team there with this ho-hum market.

  19. Toronto is not a football market. I am satisfied with the nine football games (10 if playoffs are involved) currently being played at the Rogers Centre.

  20. When the team permanently moves to Toronto and changes the name to the Toronto Maple Bills then, and only then, will people start going to the games. It needs to be a Toronto team. Just look at the Leafs, even when the team sucks they still sell out every single night. Sorry, but nobody wants to go see a sucky Barfalo team.

  21. You’re way off here. This is the best news for ALL Bills fans, including those living in Canada. Playing in Toronto was clearly a neutral site game at best. & for you to suggest they’ll most likely move after Ralph Wilson passes is completely false. There are ownership groups out there to buy the Bills & keep them in BUFFALO once he passes. The Bills will never leave Buffalo, so stop the speculation.

  22. whenever a story like this breaks there are always a few losers here that act like the Bills (or insert losing team here) is going to LA. You know LA the city that has lost every NFL team it ever had. I have said it before I feel sorry to any city that loses a team the LA, the city that can’t support a team like Buffalo can, even though it is 10 times the size. Just win and the seats are full in any NFL city

  23. oh also for all the guys that are like oh this means the Bills are moving. One issue that this team had with the series was they were basically selling a home game and making it a neutral site game. If they were serious about winning they had to make this move. They can’t give away one home game a year when they need every win they can get

  24. Bills fan, would you pay hundreds of dollars per seat to watch two teams from other cities play in Buffalo?

    There you go, Toronto is NOT a Bills town, it IS an NFL town though.

  25. By the time this game is played next season the Bills will be god-awful again, be out of the playoff race and the game will be blacked out on local tv. The only professional franchise Boofalo deserves is BOWLING. they already have an abundance of beer,bimbos and wings.

  26. Thank You! That game has been an embarrassment to us bills fans. There’s nothing better than tailgating at the Ralph and it was a travesty that we lost one game a year to Toronto. GO BILLS!!!

  27. There is no fan base in the NFL that compare with Bills fans — and thousands of Canadians are a part of this. Regionalization has been a success despite the Toronto series. The fact is that Canadian fans would rather watch football at the Ralph. Yes, winning will help, but fans who know football don’t want to watch a game at the Rogers Center.

  28. Buffalo is obviously still a small market by NFL standards, but being the 72nd largest municipality is misleading. Its metro area population is over 1 million, which in itself still only puts the area somewhere around 50th, but the population of Southern Ontario, which is huge, isn’t factored in to that ranking at all. It also has a significant draw from Rochester, which also isn’t included.

  29. How do you call Toronto an “NFL Town”? Someone explain that to me. If I’m understanding the logic it would seem that every town is an NFL Town.
    And to the guy who says hockey is still a man’s game – two giant thumbs up.

  30. It doesn’t matter where the Bills play – they’re still probably going to lose. All this means is just a little less money for Old Man Wilson’s family this year.

  31. A Pittsburgher who really hopes things work out well for Buffalo. Good town that deserves a break. I mean, how could you not like the Anchor Bar?!

  32. Jim Kelly and the K gun offense. Those were the days. I think th problem is they went to the black shoes- go back to the white and problem solved

  33. Growing up in New England, obv a Pats fan but always liked the Bills. Something about those smaller towns like Buffalo, Green Bay etc., it’s about the only quaint thing left in the nfl.

  34. Can somebody explain why London sells out and is over subscribed for three games why the NFL should pull the plug. Are we talking football snobbery here. Maybe we are comfortable here and if we don’t watch out London will get a franchise. Talking to Brits i couldn’t believe their level of knowledge.

  35. Why does every writer always act like the bills are in some financial hole?? Couldn’t be further from the truth. The team is highly profitable playing it’s games where it is

  36. This doesn’t even pass the smell test.

    How on earth does ‘delivering a first class NFL experience’ equate to ‘we need to yank the one game for 2014′? That game is at least SIX MONTHS AWAY. You’re saying you can’t plan the best possible experience for fans with six months’ (or more) lead time? Is Rob Ford in charge of the marketing department? Because that’s the only explanation that would make any sense.

    Face it, the game is gone. But that announcement will come maybe 12 months from now so it’ll be less embarrassing then. I guess.

  37. There are several flaws in the theory that any new owner would be required to move the team.

    The money is in the TV contracts, not the tickets.

    Parity keeps small market teams competitive.

    There are a number of local billionaires who would buy the team just to keep it from moving. See: Golisano, Thomas and Buffalo Sabres.

    New Jersey’s tax dollars and infrastructure maintain the Giants (and jets) stadium, making it easier to build/remodel/whatever stadium going forward.

    The Jaguars have, by far, the smallest fan base in the league, and their new owner is somehow able to keep the team there.

  38. Maybe the whole Toronto experiment thing would be more successful if the fans got the chance to watch two NFL teams play each other.

  39. Nobody is to blame for the Bills failures more than the Bills themselves, but they really did get a bums deal last year.

    Last year, the Bills had to play the most teams that were coming off their bye-week and they also had to play 9 away games and only 7 home games because of the Toronto series. I am glad to hear it is postponed and I can’t wait to hear in the future that it has been cancelled. Toronto does not have nearly as many Bills fans as there are in Southern Ontario. Going to the Ralph is easier and cheaper for those fans than it is to go to the Rogers Centre.

    Hopefully, the bills will at least have a fair shot at the beginning of the season this year.

  40. This is good news; it means Bills management finally is placing some value on winning vs. profit.

    If the Bills move to LA, where will the 13 teams with less average attendance than the Bills move?

  41. Toronto? World-class? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    That’s hilarious…your mayor is a crackhead and your most recent “star” is a punk teenager running wild in OUR country.

    I would say Toronto has fallen as quickly and as hard as ANY American city.

    Now ya got your wish, keep your crackrock loving people out of the Ralph on game days…and enjoy the CFL and BlueJays and Raptors, all a bunch of winners too.

  42. Two thoughts here.

    One, contrary to popular belief, the NFL never really been all that successful outside of the United States.

    NFL Europe lasted 15 seasons, but never caught on — not even in London. After averaging around 25,000 fans a game in each of its first two seasons, average attendance dropped to around 15,000, and reached 20,000 only once — in 2007 — it’s final season of existence.

    The main thing that makes playing one or two games in London popular is that it’s exactly that — one or two games a season.

    Two, Toronto already has the Argonauts of the CFL, which experienced the same sort of difficulty as the Bills are facing when it attempted to expand in the U.S. in the mid-1990’s.

    Seven cities — Baltimore, Birmingham, Las Vegas, Memphis, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Shreveport — fielded teams in the league.

    Las Vegas and Sacramento each folded after one season, and only Baltimore showed a profit. The American-based teams averaged around 25,000 fans per game — less than half the average attendance of the Canadian-based teams (about 55,000), and the league ended the venture after the 1995 season.

    The reality, I think, is that despite its enormous popularity in the U.S., the NFL still has a long way to go before it matches the international appeal of soccer, hockey, and baseball — which, unlike football, all have organized leagues in every continent except Antarctica.

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