MLSE interested in Argos with eye on NFL in Toronto
David Braley, owner of the Argonauts, eventually will have to sell the club and MLSE could be a potential buyer. Raising the club's profile might go a long way in convincing the NFL that MLSE has what it takes to operate an NFL franchise. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)
The For Sale sign has yet to be erected, but eventually Sen. David Braley will divest himself of the Argonauts and the Canadian Football League franchise will change ownership hands.
And eventually, the Argos will have to find a home to call their own.
At this point in the process, nothing is imminent, but Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is kicking the tires with what sources believe is a long-term goal of bringing a National Football League franchise to Toronto.
Recently, a top executive for MLSE toured the Argos football facility at the University of Torontos Mississauga campus, which has housed the CFL club for close to two decades.
The Argos, when they were searching recently for a full-time training facility, toured Downsview Park, a site where MLSE built a soccer complex for Toronto FC.
Synergies are always explored among teams and the citys top executives talk often, if not on a daily basis.
Big picture, its no secret the Argos will need both a new owner and the ability to control home dates by having their own facility.
The questions remain when and who ultimately ends up owning the team at a time when Braley isnt getting any younger and eventually hell have to sell both the B.C. Lions and Argos.
In Vancouver, the operations both on and off the field are ideal, making any sale a slam dunk.
In Toronto, the Argos are slowly turning around their off-field status, while their on-field product, when quarterback Ricky Ray is healthy, is in good shape with all the key pieces locked up.
The fact MLSE has taken a look at the Argos, even in a peripheral way, speaks to a vision that clearly involves the NFL, at least thats the scenario painted by many in the industry, who, at this point, arent prepared to go public.
In terms of big-league sports, football is the one missing jewel in the MLSE structure.
It gets no bigger than the NFL, but to play with big boys it will involve MLSE pursuing the Argos.
The theory is that MLSE will need to show the NFL it can make a football product viable and what better way than by making the Double Blue relevant in Toronto, by investing the money necessary to build a full-time facility and perhaps even a new football stadium.
There also has been this theory that the NFL does not want to enter the Toronto market full-time, fearing it would destroy the entire Canadian Football League. If MLSE ends up owning the Argonauts, it could help prevent the NFL from looking like the bad guy if a four-down franchise is placed north of the border and the CFL ends up suffering from the increased football competition in the battle for TV viewers and media interest.
Whether its some kind of shared arrangement at BMO Field, which MLSE operates, building a new facility, there are many moving parts and so much that needs to be done that nothing is expected to get done anytime soon.
But theres something afoot and the presence of an MLSE executive in Argoland has raised many curious eyebrows.
Stay tuned because this football saga is far from over.
And somewhere in the background is Paul Godfrey, a staunch sporting fan who has been lobbying hard for the NFL to come to town for decades.