NFL set to OK Bills' annual regular-season game in Toronto Print
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Wednesday, 30 January 2008 17:25
 BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was expected to announce plans Friday for the Buffalo Bills to play an annual regular-season game in Toronto, starting this year.
The announcement, to come during Goodell's state of the league address during the Super Bowl festivities in Glendale, Ariz., would make the Bills the NFL's first team to play annual regular-season games outside the United States.
The Bills proposed the plan at the NFL owners meetings in October as part of their desire to expand their market to Toronto, Canada's largest city and financial capital, and located about a 90-minute drive from Buffalo.
Under the team's proposal, the Bills would play some preseason games and one annual regular-season game at the downtown Rogers Centre - a domed stadium with a retractable roof - through 2012.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined comment, but noted that the Bills' plans to play in Toronto will be among the topics addressed during Goodell's speech.
The Bills weren't immediately available for comment.
A delegation of executives representing the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rogers Centre were scheduled to travel this week to meet with NFL officials at the Super Bowl.
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon is on board with the NFL playing games in his territory.
``I've been having good conversations with the league on this,'' Cohon told The Associated Press. Cohon, who is returning to Toronto after a brief vacation, added he'll wait to comment further until after Goodell makes his announcement.
NFLPA president Troy Vincent said he's aware an agreement for the Bills to play in Toronto was close, but noted it hasn't yet been presented to the union for its approval.
It's not clear who the Bills opponent would be or when the game would be played because the NFL schedule will not be released until spring.
For the Bills, this is considered the small-market franchise's most ambitious attempt to secure its long-term future in Buffalo by tapping into Toronto's vast corporate base. The Bills, who count Toronto as part of their territory, attract an average of 15,000 Canadian fans to their home games, but have had little success establishing marketing deals and selling luxury suites with companies north of the border.
Playing annual games there would give the franchise a more immediate presence in a region that has a population of about 4.6 million.
NFL teams have played home games outside their community, but not to this international degree. The Packers previously split home games between Green Bay and Milwaukee, and the Chicago Bears played their 2002 home games at Champaign, Ill., because of renovations to Soldier Field.
And Buffalo playing in Toronto goes beyond the NFL's recent bid to play games annually outside the United States, after Miami played the New York Giants at London's Wembley Stadium this past season.
Goodell also is expected to announce Friday that San Diego and New Orleans would play each other in London next season.
The Bills have already received state and county approval to play in Toronto. The approval was necessary because of the team's lease with Ralph Wilson Stadium.
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AP Football Writer Dave Goldberg in Glendale, Ariz., contributed to this report.
 

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