Will Toronto Accept The NFL Like London?

Martin BentleyCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2008

This weekend, Toronto becomes only the third city outside the United States to host a competitive NFL game, as the Buffalo Bills "host" the Miami Dolphins at the Rogers Centre.

The move was made due to the Bills' large fan base in Toronto, and the Bills will play one home game a season at the Rogers Centre for the next five seasons.

Their opponents on Sunday are no strangers to foreign travel, as the Miami Dolphins played in the first game at Wembley Stadium in London last season, losing to the New York Giants. This particular game won't be so far for them, but having played at Wembley, the Dolphins know how to play in unfamiliar territory.

The Bills have had a bit of Toronto experience, having played a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rogers Centre in August, so most of their players will know what to look out for on the field, knowing certain sight lines etc. There's also the difference of having a roof, which may do more to help the Dolphins in this case.

Rogers Centre is expecting about 54,000 fans for this game, their goal is to get that many fans in for the Bills' fifth home game in 2012. The question remains as to what impact these games will have on the Canadian Football League, which is currently enjoying a revival in fortunes.

If the Bills games are a huge success, Toronto may consider applying for an NFL franchise of their own, to go along with being the only Canadian city in Major League Baseball and the NBA, which may well annoy the CFL, and the Toronto Argonauts in particular, who only get up to 31,000 a home game. Why watch a CFL game featuring failed NFL players, when you can watch the real thing there instead?

The NFL has to tread carefully here. Rushed statements were made in London after both the games there, including having the Super Bowl at Wembley Stadium, or having a London franchise. The latter could be more of a reality in Toronto, so there shouldn't be an over-reaction however the Bills/Dolphins game does on Sunday afternoon.