Toronto Popularity Contest: Argos vs. TFC

I'm writing this entry out of frustration. My pal Freddie P thinks I'm "a fool" because I told him TFC was more popular in Toronto than the Argos. In my humble opinion, TFC is more popular than the Argonauts in this city. Fred, obviously, strongly disagrees.

Fred bases 100% of his argument on the fact the Argos get higher national television ratings. He has no other metric to point to, and he's correct in that an Argos game will be credited with many more eyeballs than a TFC match across this fine nation. But those numbers are national in a ratings system that heavily favours an older demographic. Every other metric, anecdotal evidence and common sense tells you Fred is dreaming in technicolour.

Very quickly, in this moment of frustration, I tweeted the following:

There were many responses validating my opinion.

There were a couple of tweets referring to the aforementioned national television ratings, which is undeniable, but the overwhelming majority think Fred has lost his marbles.

In Toronto, the 416 Toronto with John Tory as mayor, which team has more fans: TFC or Argos?

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I am not a fan of soccer so I am not likely to go to a game unless the tickets are free.

I have gone to Argo games (not at BMO as yet) and I do watch them on television. Even though I played soccer in grade and secondary school...I really can't stand to watch the game on television (I’ve tried).

Based on my habits I guess I’d have to side with Freddie P

October 27, 2016 @ 3:11 PM


I think it is closer than the people in those tweets think.

TFC average home attendance is 25,792 for 17 home games. If you watch games though, you'd know there is a decent amount of empty seats. So they sell a lot of tickets but the if I have to guess their attendance average is much closer to 20,000.

Argos average for 2015 was 12,430.4 and in 2016 it is 16,380.3. There is a total 8 homes games.

So just on attendance the edge goes to TFC but not by much. They even had the first home playoff game last night that didn't even sell out with a large amount of empty seats in the upper deck. Mainly because the game was a on Wednesday. But alas even if the attendance was even, TFC has more home games.

For television TFC rarely crack 100,000, Argos games a typically a couple hundred thousand. Lets say the average per Argos game is 300,000, if 25% of those are Argos fans, that is 75,000 fans watching. I haven't looked at the average television ratings for either team but I guess that was about the same with TFC or slightly higher.

I think the edge goes to TFC but the think even if we account a fraction of the national ratings as Argo's fans, it still be better than TFC's.

This is coming from a TFC fan that had season tickets last year.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:16 PM



The sample size of your survey is one.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:21 PM


I think it's Leafs, Jays, Raptors as the big 3. Then a big gap. Then TFC. Then a big gap. Then Argos.

I know the Argos get good ratings, but they only play 18 times a year, and each game has another home Canadian market in the equation. I think people in the West will watch Friday Night Football regardless of who's playing.

I feel bad for the Argos and their fans. The team is just not on the map here.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:23 PM


Argos. Even though I prefer the TFC.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:24 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


In Toronto? I'm not talking 905 here...

October 27, 2016 @ 3:25 PM

Mark H

I think this is no contest.

First you can't really look at TV ratings and judge them apples to apples. Toronto FC is a local team with a limited appeal outside of the golden horseshoe.

The CFL numbers coming from Toronto are also not necessarily there to see the Argos. I am willing to bet more fans of other teams are tuning in vs. the Argos.

So take TV out of the equation and lets just look at what they share which is BMO Field. TFC with a longer home schedule and more expensive ticket prices are outdrawing the Argos significantly.

Considering that save for the 401 Derby there are very few opposition fans in the stands at BMO for TFC games and 2 of the 3 highest attended Argos games were against the Ti-Cats, the difference is even more stark.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:28 PM


Argos may be averaging 16,000, but if TFC's average is overstated than the Argos is REALLY overstated. Their crowds most days could best be described as a smattering.

Don't know there is an objective answer. Both are competing to be considered a serious sport in Toronto.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:29 PM


It's not close. There's no interest in the Argos and most of their fans are in the 905 region.

Toronto prefers TFC. I have no doubt.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:30 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Just in case someone thinks I'm biased here, I can honestly say I have never paid to see TFC live but I have paid to see the Argos.

As for television, I would only tune in to both teams to watch them in the playoffs, as I did last night for TFC.

Also, I once put Toronto sports teams in tiers. You can see that entry here:

October 27, 2016 @ 3:35 PM


The Argos television numbers are inflated by fans of opposing teams. The majority of people watching an Argos-Eskimos game are probably Eskimos fans and that's why you see the large TV numbers. The attendance numbers favour the TFC by far and beyond that you just have to look at the buzz each team gets. The TFC has following in the MSM and there's a slight buzz in the city regarding that team (at least in comparison to the Argos). You never hear a whimper about the Argos, absolutely nothing. It's crickets. How often do you see people on twitter posting about the Argos other than the few MSM that are paid to cover them? Between the TFC and the Argos, it's no contest. TFC way more popular.

I was at an Argos game at BMO earlier this year eager to check it out, and one clear thing stuck out to me (other than the half-empty stadium): the fan base is so, so old. There were hardly any young people there compared to Jays, Raptors, and even insanely overpriced Leafs games. The stands were filled with tons of old people that were clearly Argos lifers (you know the type - those wearing 80's and 90's-era jerseys and merchandise). The fan base is ageing and eventually dying. I'm in my 20's and I literally know zero Argos fans anywhere around my age. None of the young kids I know follow the CFL. Somewhere along the line youth got completely disconnected with this team and that hasn't changed. I wish it wasn't the case.

October 27, 2016 @ 3:51 PM

Zamvig from Brampton

I took a leak next to Freddie P at a Jays game this past summer and couldn't help but take a peak. Christ, he's got a massive klank.

October 27, 2016 @ 4:13 PM

Zamvig from Brampton


October 27, 2016 @ 4:21 PM


I've made this comment before and I'll make it again re: TV numbers. Comparing between TFC and Argos is not a fair comparison.

Quick: Which TV network will broadcast the next Argo game?'s TSN. Not only is it always TSN, it is always TSN 1,3,4,5. Also the game times are consistent.

Quick: When is HNIC? Didn't even have to think about it.

Now TFC games have been found on some combination of TSN 1-5, Sportsnet Ontario, or Sportsnet 360 (which by my estimation has 18 subscribers). Games have been on Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun at times ranging from 3pm to 10pm (west coast). Until there is consistent game times, comparison is useless.

This is a chicken and egg situation. Do popular sports breed consistent game times or does consistency increase popularity?


You are bang on IMO. Everyone knows the west love their football and I'm sure a regional breakdown of TV numbers would show that. Would TSN ever disclose those numbers? Don't hold your breath.

October 27, 2016 @ 4:29 PM

John M.

I think the best answer is .... it depends.

How do you define popularity?

There was an old joke that there are 20,000 New York Rangers fans but they all go to every game.

The Rangers were not the most popular team in New York but those who liked them, really, really liked them.

Attendance numbers are only a guide. How much did people pay? It is easy to fill a stadium with cheap or free tickets.

TV ratings reflect casual interest, since there is almost no cost involved.

Then you can look at merchandise sales.

And can't people be fans of both?

Or, as in my case, fans of neither?

October 27, 2016 @ 5:39 PM

The Voice of Reason

Both are deemed "B" level sports for all intensive purposes.

A proper analogy to this question would be "who is the smartest person in special ed"?

October 28, 2016 @ 9:19 AM


Again with this tired and boring debate, invariably perpetuated by TFC fanbois who want to validate the size of their own klanks by "proving" that their new(ish) kid on the block soccer team is more popular than their dad's favourite football team.

Argos attendance is not where it needs to be, but that has been clearly impacted this year by a number of things:
- over-optimistic ticket pricing
- a new management group having to figure out the business from the ground up, after the team was left with a skeleton staff at the end of the David Braley's realm
- all the logistics of a new venue, and football field construction in a soccer stadium, taking away from valuable marketing and sales time during the offseason
- having to plan the Grey Cup in season one (and the Grey Cup definitely has suffered as well)
Nobody ever said that year one would be easy, and anyone who thought that would fit squarely in the "delusional" category next to those who say TV ratings don't matter.

Despite all this, the Argos have put on a great gameday show in a great-looking venue, everywhere but maybe in terms of team performance. I have been to two games, and did not see the same old-and-dying fanbase that is mentioned above; the tailgate area was filled with young fans and there are a lot of kids, couples, and 30- and 40-something fans as well. I would consider the Argos a more family-friendly experience than TFC, given the soccer club's history of profanity and x-rated signs in the crowds and general drunken disorder amongst the supporters' groups.

TV ratings are what pays the bills, and if there was any interest in the general population in TFC, you can bet that one of the content-starved sports networks would be all over it. Kind of like TSN with the CFL.

And where do the 10,000 empty seats at the historic first TFC playoff game come into the equation? Instead of the fanbois pounding their chests, they would be better served by looking at what can make TFC's appeal more mainstream (and recognize that success for both TFC and the Argos is not mutually exclusive, and is probably mutually beneficial, in the long run).

October 28, 2016 @ 1:31 PM



10,000 empty seats is absolutely accurate yet somehow the 20,000 fans there still managed to put together an atmosphere the Argos have not seen since Exhibition Stadium. But most Argo fans will certainly remember those times.

May the Lord have mercy on our souls if the Argos played on a Wednesday opposite Raptors opening night in 2 degree weather. I cannot fathom the excuses that would be conjured up.


"TV ratings are what pays the bills, and if there was any interest in the general population in TFC, you can bet that one of the content-starved sports networks would be all over it. Kind of like TSN with the CFL."

See this is bizarre because once someone points out the futility of Argos attendance they often reply with some variation of this...

"Despite all this, the Argos have put on a great gameday show in a great-looking venue, everywhere but maybe in terms of team performance.

But hey...that argument can't apply to a little old soccer team. Only kids play soccer.

Speaking of one of those "content-starved" networks... I wonder what the CBC is up too

October 28, 2016 @ 2:51 PM



I am not sure I follow your logic through the whole post. The Argos sucked on the field this year (especially at home), that is a given. But the atmosphere at BMO was great, it was loud and enthusiastic regardless, and the team has done a great job in making it a good, family-friendly environment.

It is interesting that CBC is apparently looking at soccer coverage, as per the link you provided. This is good news for all parties. I am not sure of any specifics - whether "Soccer Night in Canada" would be limited to the three MLS teams, or if it would include coverage of a new Canada-wide "tier two" professional league supported by a majority of CFL owners, with the TFC organization as an active participant.

This all goes back to my main point that success of Toronto's sports franchises benefits everyone, and the debate about who is more popular does more to reveal insecurities amongst the fanbois than accomplish anything.

October 28, 2016 @ 3:56 PM


One last point - saying the Argos put on on a great gameday experience (especially compared to the last few years at the 'Dome) is in no way a criticism of the TFC game. If anyone is reading it that way, they are most likely projecting their own bias and conceits onto my posts rather than taking it a face value.

October 28, 2016 @ 4:10 PM



All I ask is actual, physical Argo fans to exist and pack BMO field. No excuses. I'd like the point out that the chatter on Twitter during TFC's Wednesday game had no excuses regarding a non-sellout but rather the atmosphere created by people attending.

TFC have had literally 10 years of futility and shitty team after shitty team yet the fans were there.

If Argo fans were at BMO field and packed it full with 25k fans creating an exciting environment then there would be absolutely no argument against the Argos. None. Yet fans of the Argos hide behind TV number in which regional breakdowns are unavailable but somehow accurately reflect the popularity of the Argos in this city.


I fully admit that my own life experience is a small sample size. With that said I have never met a single individual who cheers for the Argos. I have met fanatical individuals of every major franchise in Toronto as well as a majority of US-based teams (NFL, NBA) yet I have never crossed paths with a true, die hard, young Argos fan.

October 28, 2016 @ 8:42 PM


Regarding TV ratings, the CFL is undeniably far more popular in the prairie provinces than it is in Toronto, and almost certainly where most of their TV viewers are. You could even see TSN TV advertising for Humpty's restaurants, Robin's Donuts, and Safeway, who don't exist in Toronto and are almost exclusively western Canada franchise chains. Up until about 3 or 4 years ago BBM (now Numeris) would publish a weekly Top 30 list of TV programs for some individual cities in addition to the national list that is now the only thing released to the general public. You could see that CFL playoff games could make the top 10 in Edmonton and Calgary, but never be seen on the Toronto list where other sports would on occasion make the Top 30 in some weeks.

As others have mentioned, age is also a factor. I think you'll find few people under about 30 or 35 who still pay for a traditional TV subscription when they know they can find anything on the internet. A few months back, the Toronto Star had an article about a survey of Ontario residents, and not one single person of the 1000 surveyed who was under 35 said they were primarily an Argo fan. I've been going to about 2 Argo games a year for 40 years now, and it's difficult to notice over about the last 20 years that there's almost no one else there younger than me.

And btw, Simmons and Cox have chimed in on the matter in their columns over the last couple of days, and both agree with Mike (and disagree with FreddieP).

November 1, 2016 @ 2:25 PM


^ Correction -- now that I checked, it was only Cox, while Simmons was not specific.

November 1, 2016 @ 2:57 PM


^ and in the original post above, I meant to type "difficult to not notice over about the last 20 years ..."

November 1, 2016 @ 4:05 PM

Jim Bob McGee

The problem is that MLS is the up and coming league, a North American incarnation of a much more popular sport. Giovinco played for Juventus, one of the most famous football clubs in the world.

The CFL players feuding with him play for a team that's....uh, well.....what, exactly?

It all boils down to brand awareness. Toronto FC is with the times. The CFL as a whole just isn't. Look at how CFL brass colluded with the Esks BOD to fire Ed Hervey over "media access," nevermind that the only thing people care about, in any sport, is winning. When Len Rhodes says it wasn't enough to win the Grey Cup, what does that tell you? It tells you this shit isn't worth your time.

The CFL is essentially Diet NFL. It's all got of the disadvantages downpat. Inept officiating, an aloof commissioner who has no idea what he's doing, horribly run franchises (Esks firing Ed Hervey pretty much killed a lot of people's fandom), the same old shit with wife beaters (like the one the Riders recently canned) and the old CTE debate.

And with the Maple Leafs finally getting it together, as well as the Blue Jays and Raptors likely going to try for one last charge into the breach, the Argos will be hard pressed to find anyone to notice them.

IMHO I think the CFL is doomed, and I can easily see the NFL gobbling up and turning it into an equivalent to the AHL as a minor league for up and comers. Sad as that might be, the CFL brass only have themselves to blame.

No one cares that it's "Canada's game."

We care that the product is exciting, and it isn't. Hell, it seems not a single gridiron league in the world knows how to do that. When the Legends Football League has scantily clad women glomping each other and can't even market it properly, you know that the sport is heading into some deep shit.

April 22, 2017 @ 5:12 PM

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