The 2022 National Football League (NFL) season kicked off on September 8, with reigning Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams taking on the Buffalo Bills in the NFL Kickoff Game. It was an exciting time for football fans worldwide, especially those participating in Super Bowl betting online, but it was also a time when the age-old question reared its head once again: will there ever be an NFL franchise set up in Canada?
Rumors of a Canadian NFL franchise becoming a reality have been rife for over a decade. After all, Canadian teams feature in all major North American sports except the NFL. There are seven NHL, one NBA, and one MLB franchise in Canada, yet a Canadian football team remains off the table, at least for now.
Toronto Has A Long Sporting Heritage
Toronto is the city that is often spoken about when any Canadian NFL discussions occur. Canada’s most populous city is also the fourth most populated in North America. It is already the home to the Toronto Raptors of the NBA, the Toronto Blue Jays of the MLB, and the Toronto Maples Leafs of the NHL. The city has a long history of hosting NFL games, particularly those of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have played a handful of preseason games in Toronto and six regular season fixtures at the Rogers Centre between 2008 and 2013.
There are currently 32 NFL franchises, with the league continually talking about expanding to upwards of 40 teams. The NFL has made it clear it wants to expand internationally, with London, Mexico City, and even Sydney, Australia, receiving plenty of attention. In London, English Premier League soccer team Tottenham Hotspur built a new stadium doubles up as a venue for NFL fixtures. It comes complete with a retractable pitch, which is replaced by a football field and even has separate changing rooms to accommodate the massive NFL rosters. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosts a couple of regular season games annually, so it is the obvious choice for an expansion city. However, an NFL team in Toronto makes the most sense logistically.
2014 saw Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and rock legend Jon Bon Jovi unsuccessfully bid to own the Buffalo Bills. The bid made perfect sense due to the Buffalo Bills’ proximity to Toronto; the Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium, now known as the Highmark Stadium, is within a 75-mile radius of Toronto. Ultimately, Kim and Terrence Pegula purchased the Buffalo Bills for US$1.4 billion and are committed to keeping them in Buffalo.
Relocation Is More Likely Than a New Franchise
Toronto’s best chance of becoming an NFL city is most likely through the relocation of one of the current teams. The Los Angeles Rams considered relocating to Toronto from St. Louis before ultimately settling on a return to LA.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have long been named as a potential candidate for relocation to Toronto. Jaguars play in one of the NFL’s smallest markets and often have empty seats in their 67,814 capacity EverBank Field, resulting in a local broadcasting blackout as per NFL rules. The Jaguars’ lease expires in 2030, but they can leave early for a relatively small fee.
Other potential relocation teams include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.
There are several roadblocks for any Canadian NFL franchise to navigate past. Having a suitable stadium is the first. NFL rules state a stadium must have a 50,000 capacity, which the Rogers Centre does, but it is only 54,088 seats when configured for Canadian Football League (CFL) games. Such a capacity would be the smallest across the entire NFL.
In addition, the costs associated with an NFL franchise are huge. There would be a fee of at least $1 billion, with any team also forced to pay its players in US Dollars despite earning revenue in Canadian dollars, much like the MLB and NHL franchises do.
Toronto will likely become an NFL city at some point in the future, but one has the feeling it could be a long way down the road.