Should We Break Up Toronto?

When we think about which teams are successful in terms of attendance and community support there seems to be a stark contrast between those at the top of the list and those at the bottom in terms of actual market size.

What if the solution to getting increased engagement out of Toronto is to pattern it more like those who are successful. Community, the small market teams tend to have the largest draws mostly because of community pride and a sense of ownership (in same cases literally). But London (UK) isn't limited to couple of teams in Premier League, the city may have as many as 4 or more teams at one time playing top flight.

What if what Toronto needs is actually more teams, just one for each of its major neighborhoods. Create localized teams that will focus on carving up 6 million ish people in more manageable chunks. Where the local community gets to feel the team is theirs because its in their back yard with their name on it.

Cross town rivalries would boost interest in each team, also if Toronto had four teams then that is 3 to 4 nights a week with a Toronto area team playing, think about those media rights. Stagger their schedules for bye weeks and there is never a week the entire season where there isn't at least one game being played somewhere in the city.

Even if the other three teams each only draw as much as the Argos that's an additional 45 thousand paying butts in seats on average per week. In time as loyalty grew and team outreach efforts targeting their local communities to get kids and others invested the attendance would grow for each.

Maybe the path to making Toronto a bigger draw is to make its focus smaller?

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No. Toronto ain't a football city. The City has few High school football teams the Bills In Toronto Series proved that.

It would only cannibalize the city's football fanbase and shrink the entertainment dollar

I think you are missing the point, we need to stop treating Toronto like a single market is the premise. If a city of less than a million can be one of the top teams in attendance and an area with 6 million plus is one of the lowest there is a serious disconnect.

The idea here is would focus on making things more local be the better strategy? To stop thinking of Toronto as one single solitary market like Winnipeg but like 6 Winnipegs next to each other.

The folks of Toronto are disconnected, perhaps because our sport is smaller family oriented folksy. That isn't something oriented to do well in major metropolitan area, CFL is more like minor league baseball and community focused by neighborhoods.

My thought experiment here is precisely that past things haven't worked, perhaps those reasons are because how we been trying to make Toronto work is not how CFL works.

We need to try something different and I am thinking that what that solution is is applying how CFL works to the area properly, the smaller community focused type of sport we are.

Buffalo Bills situation doesn't apply, totally different dynamics at play. No one wants a disloyal owner or be used to get a better stadium back in their home town. This is why when the Bills first came attendance was huge then died off year after year because people realized they were being teased by a mediocre team.

When we look at the Bills I actually see that as proving my case. Where did those tens of thousands of interested football fans go? They didn't evaporate they are still there, but will only show enmasse for their own NFL level team, not the more intimate league that is CFL.

I see that there 40 to 50 thousand plus fans not being tapped into because we aren't NFL, but we could if we made it more local to them, more intimate playing to the strength of being smaller means.

It is psychology shift for sure, but we need to think differently if we are going to get through the crisis ahead of us.

You can't fragment the Toronto market. That concept works for the fast food industry. Sports franchise are an entire different animal. Mark Cohen use to work for McDonald's Canada, he never considered dividing up the Toronto market at all.

I was at one of the Bills in Toronto game, the Bills against the Bears to be exact. I still have the ticket stub and rally towel from that game. That guy you see on Bears national broadcasts that looks like Mike Ditka was there. I estimated the crowd there to be at 75% capacity. Rogers papered the event when a homeless guy seating next to me was bragging that he got his ticket from a men's shelter for nothing. Everybody in our section was comparing who paid what for their tickets. Most paid $50 from Stubhub. I was embarrassed to say what I paid for my tickets to the group($500 for 3 tickets in the nose bleed seats). Most of those fans came from Chicago and other NFL cities like Miami, New York. Mostly Americans on a mini weekend vacation. Those fans went back to their home cities is where they went

Rogers used the Bills Series to lay the groundwork for buying the Bills from Ralph Wilson. Their plan went into the crapper when Wilson died and his estate held a bidding process for the sale of the team. Rogers underestimated the value of the Bills when Donald Trump had a placed a higher bid than them.

Toronto has their work cut out for them if they want to increase attendance. One idea increasing fan attendance in other dismal markets like Montreal and Vancouver is expand to rival cities like Seattle and Quebec City. Toronto will have to make do with Hamilton

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There was some talk years ago of building a stadium in Mississauga as a potential home for the Argos. If the city or private investors were to actually build that stadium, expansion there might work.

But it might be better to build support for the sport in the area first. If NFL, CFL, USports, and high school football are all struggling in the area, then it just might be a problem with the sport in general.

Fragmentation might be the answer.

If part of the dev plan was for each new team to form relationships with the local high-schools, which would be key anyway as then younger fans begin to identify with their local team. In exchange for say waiving the franchise fees the teams could be required to spend that money investing in their local area to develop the sport.

The new franchise could be a way to excite interest among younger people. Gear game atmosphere towards that local areas demographics. Right now the Argos are trying to be all things to all people, which if you're a smaller market works fine because you're likely accommodating the common denominator but in Toronto it is too diverse and too big a population there is no common denominator of the population.

Breaking down so you can do that may be the key in getting youth to better identify with us because the local team could speak to that specific group dynamics of that region.

Young people are attracted to the idea of expansion, it's new and open possibilities that attracts interest. Then we have to capitalize on it with custom retention strategies for those neighborhoods it is serving.

Last I heard of someone interested in buying an expansion franchise for the GTA was late 70s, maybe early 80s. Too bad it didn't work out then. It might've created that regionalized appeal and impact that could've helped over the decades since.

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It is never too late. We could do it now as part of a greater GTA strategy to grow the fan base there.

Waive franchise fees in exchange for building stadium and local engagement in particular focus on high schools through internships, training coops and scholarships.

Get cost of new stadiums down by going pre fab and buying in bulk to further reduce cost putting each new facility in the under $14 million range. All we ask for from the community is land to build it on, in exchange we'll let local high schools use it and provide scholarships.

In the short run it begins the process of investing the local communities into CFL, long term will provide dramatically increased revenue from the league come time to negotiate new TV deal.

There is no magic bullet solution for Toronto. You really have to do the groundwork of getting young fans back and engaged in the games. Argos need to go into every school during the season and off season, hold community events, offer free tickets or seriously reduced tickets to young kids so they pull their parents into games as well. Maybe have events after the games where kids get to meet up with the players. Enlist the help of most players and have a whole team of community ambassadors. They need to be in the news and in front of people’s eyeballs every weekend.

The fans weren’t lost in a year. It’s been a slow erosion since the mid 70 s when other major sports started moving in. It’s going to take sustained effort over a decade to slowly bring this back into relevance with people. MLSE needs to put in the work and have patience with this. They don’t need 50000 fans at games anymore to make this work. Build in 10000 more fans a game and now you’ve got something.

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Yes, where what I am proposing is to breaking down into smaller pieces, that regional expansion could be the starting point to build a new relationship with the youth.

I don't see it as a magic bullet as it will take time, but I think it could be the different type of approach. We need to do all the things you mentioned but I think if we want it to feel like CFL, that more local community thing it needs to broken up.

This way each local team could gear their youth outreach to specific demographics of their area. I think part of the problem is Toronto is too big and too diverse and that makes targeting youth difficult just by sure volume but also competing interests.

What may work in one quarter of Trump may be a turn off for another, plus building cross town rivalries that use the existing high school rivalries as a base could be a good foundation to get kids excited and invested more quickly.

It’s an interesting idea and would be great to have a 10 th team and balance east and west. I still think you need to lay groundwork beforehand and build up the current team, so any prospective owner sees the value in the market. Right now you risk fragmenting the current season seat holder base and ticket buyers into two smaller segments.

At this point though I don’t think any ideas should be off the table. The league needs Toronto more than Toronto needs the league and there needs to be more vision from all of the owners and commisioner on how to do this.

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That's my point, I think this is how we build up interest and value. If we focus on just the Argos we box out any new teams and spend a lot time trying to get a diverse audience invested.

Where my proposal is that the expansion is how we rebuild , a radical change in approach to Toronto. I am thinking we add 3 teams. Break Toronto area into quarters and have each one then focus a custom outreach plan based specifically on the demographics of their zone.

Basically we call a mulligan on Toronto and do a full reset and approach the area like we are starting from scratch.

The expansion is the starting point to trigger the refocus and to attract local attention. Focus utilizing already existing high school and varsity cross town rivalries.

We make a total break from the old and totally retool our approach there using go smaller go local as the basis for triggering the engagement. A build it and they will come approach.

I agree it's never too late. I wouldn't be against expansion to Mississauga or York, I just don't think it's very likely investors are going to come forward given the lack of support for all levels of football in that market.

The league should continue to grow the grassroots and tighten up its business structure first. Then, smart expansion-minded investors will be easier to find.

The idea behind this concept is to use it as the basis for a rebirth of local gross roots growth. It will allow the new orgs to target their areas differently with outreach and messaging that makes sense to that area rather than messaging that is trying to be all things to all people.

The question is which 2 to 4 areas should be targeted, thinks areas nearby with large concentrations of people but different ethnic, social or ideological demographics. Then in that area is there land available in a good neighborhood and how do we compensate the Argos to give them the one time quick cash for them to retool their outreach efforts?

Winnipeg only has 20 or so Highschool in the immediate vicinity where just a rough search for the GTA that number was well north of 40 where I stopped counting. If all teams have equal resources due to revenue sharing and caps out reach is going to be difficult. Those things are needed from a business perspective where it will be easier to break the area into sections where new teams only have to out reach to 15 to 20.

That is more manageable and can be better focused.

The only way creating multiple teams in the Toronto market would be successful is if the CFL was so popular in Toronto that it could support two teams. It ain’t.

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Welcome to the forum.

You are right that there's such a disconnect in Toronto that it will take an awful lot of time and effort just to make the Argonauts relevant again.

Too many mistakes made since the Blue Jays started in 1977.

People involved are culpable in this mess.

Specifically what mistakes did the Argos make?

I am all for breaking up with toronto :slight_smile:

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Well the premise of this idea is to bring the support back through expansion. To entice the fans back and invest youth by breaking Toronto up into multiple smaller markets and having each new team focused on that one area and crafting message that targets that demographic.

That in turn will be build up the other teams in the area including the Argos, at this point do they have any fan base left to lose? The idea here is go local to bring back the fans who left with an option that speaks to them and in their back yard.

By not having exclusive football rights to the Skydome when it was built.

Going back to Skydome when the other stadium plans fell through, having C+S as owners along many other bad owners, just lack of promotion from themselves.

I can go on. Similar experience in Vancouver.

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