Commissioner Roger Goodell sang the praises of Toronto yesterday, while effectively saying that until they built a new stadium, the NFL wasn’t coming.
But one influential owner opened a significant can of worms when asked about the topic, mentioning expansion beyond 32 teams as a possibility.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank told John Kryk of the Toronto Sun that he shared Goodell’s belief that a stadium was the key to an NFL future there, while raising the intriguing possibility of more than the current amount of teams.
“I think it’s a question of just trying to understand expansion and the implications — having it balanced,” Blank said. “You don’t want an odd number of teams; you’d want an even number of teams. How that would fall out [is crucial].
“I don’t think anyone questions the size of the Toronto market or the potential of the market. It’s a great market and a great sports city — a great sports city.”
Asked to clarify that expansion would be a consideration, Blank said yes.
“It could be, but I don’t think it has to be,” he said. “I do think the city could definitely support a team.”
Many in the NFL believe they’ve reached a perfect balance, with 32 teams, and eight four-team divisions. But these guys also keep talking about growing the game and expanding revenues, so a future beyond the current set-up has to have been considered at some level. It’s still seems more likely that relocation is a better bet than expansion regarding Canada, but the simple fact that Blank would broach the topic is interesting.
Toronto is certainly a substantial market, with 6 million people in the metropolitan area, making it the largest city in the U.S. or Canada without a team. So if nothing else, the NFL shaking the tree for a new stadium would at least create some leverage for them, when owners push for stadium deals in their own markets.