Keep NFL out of T.O.
Lions president on a mission
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media
If the NFL ever comes to Toronto, you could say goodbye to the Argonauts and the rest of the CFL, argues B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles. (Sun Media/Greg Henkenhaf)
Bobby Ackles has a cause, and wants your help, football fans.
The future of the CFL could be at stake.
The president of the B.C. Lions is one of the more respected figures in football, widely known on both sides of the border and with 55 years experience in the game.
What has him worried is the possibility of the NFL moving into Toronto. It's long been talked about, and nothing is imminent, but Ackles' fear is if and when it does happen, the CFL will be through.
"No question in my mind a team could be successful in Toronto," Ackles told Sun Media. "But it would take southern Ontario and immediately kill Toronto and Hamilton and therefore it would kill the Grey Cup and the CFL. I don't think there's any question about that."
Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey has been pursuing an NFL team for years, an effort that gained momentum when Jays owner Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, joined forces on the issue a year ago.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has also suggested Toronto could be in line for an expansion team, some day.
Nobody believes it'll happen anytime soon, but Ackles has taken it upon himself to begin marshaling opposition to the notion.
"I started talking to everybody I know," he said. "A couple of senators. I'm going to see the premier, soon. I don't know if anything can be done, but I know it's a concern to me. It's probably not ever going to affect me, because I'm 69 years old. But I'd hate if all of a sudden, at 95 or 97, the Grey Cup is no longer."
Beyond what he can do, Ackles says fans from the heartland of the CFL had better begin rallying to the cause, so when the day comes, there will be no doubt where the rest of Canada stands.
"It's the people in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta should try to do something about it," Ackles said. "The ones that are going to have to get out there and knock on doors or do whatever they have to do are the prairie cities. Because I think they'll get a stronger lobby. Imagine the people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, especially. Are we going to be down to five teams?
"Because there will not be a Grey Cup game down the road if that happens."
Ackles' comments echo what he says in his new book, The Water Boy, where he relates calling Goodell about his concerns earlier this year.
Ackles was an NFL executive for 15 years before returning to B.C. in 2002, and knows Goodell and others in the NFL head office.
The commissioner assured him there are no plans to expand to Toronto, but NFL expansion fees of an expected $1 billion would be hard to turn down, regardless what country they come from.
But to have 70,000 people enjoy an NFL game in Toronto, you will murder eight CFL franchises, Ackles writes in his book. Other than for a few people and one city, what is the advantage of a franchise -- except, as I say, for a few greedy people to turn $1 billion into $6 billion, while screwing the rest of the country.