Braley has a plan

David Braley, owner of the Toronto Argonauts. (Veronica Henri/QMI Agency)

David Braley, owner of the Toronto Argonauts. (Veronica Henri/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

TORONTO - David Braley may be getting back-to-back Grey Cups, but satisfaction remains elusive.

The owner of both the Argonauts and the B.C. Lions, named a senator in May, envisions plenty of years of hard work before the Argos’ fan base is solid in Toronto.

Being awarded the right to play host to the 2012 Grey Cup — something that was announced officially on Friday afternoon by the Canadian Football League after months of rumours — will help, but it won’t be a quick-fix solution.

“There is no question that we have a problem in southern Ontario,” Braley said.

“For the league to grow further, we have to improve the Argonaut franchise and the Hamilton franchise. If we strengthen the Argonauts franchise, Hamilton will be pulled along with it because they are like brothers.

“Normally it would be a five-to-seven year project, but I think we can probably get it done in three-to-four years, because the Grey Cup game will help us do that.”

The Argos averaged more than 26,000 fans last season as they won just three games, but not everyone paid for their tickets. Braley wants butts in the seats at the Rogers Centre, but he does not want to give ducats away.

Since taking over the Argos from David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski in February, Braley has been pouring thousands of dollars into a revamped marketing campaign. Argos billboards exist in Toronto where other companies once peddled their products before.

“More people know the word ‘Argos’ than ‘Argonauts,’ ” Braley said.

“The huge thing that came out of our marketing survey was the connection between how the average fan relates to the player. They make the same amounts of money, drive cars on the same streets, they have the same problems with dentists.

“Our job is to make sure the Argos players are very accessible, just like (Canadian football Hall of Famer) Hal Patterson was to me when I was youngster. I could get on my bicycle and go get an autograph. Those are the things you have to market.

“You have to reach out to the people. The customer is always right. The customer decides what he or she wants to see.”

And that includes on television. Braley has been playing around with the idea of blacking out a couple of Argos homes games, as is his right, but probably will not do so in 2010.

“We’re leaning heavily to not having any blackouts this year,” Braley said.

“It’s tough to make that decision without all of the facts ... I can’t guarantee it but it looks like (there will be no blackouts in Toronto).”

The Argos have won seven games in two years, and Braley must realize that no amount of marketing would aid as much as an Argos appearance in the 2012 Grey Cup. The headlines will be waiting, as it will be the 100th Grey Cup, and one that involves a host that is the oldest football franchise in North America.

“There is no question I keep tabs on things (on the field),” Braley said. “It’s far too early.

“The game is won or lost along the front line. Can you give your quarterback three seconds to throw the ball or is he on his backside? It’s not hard to figure out what has to be done.

“I think we have improved our offensive line and now we are trying to find a quarterback to adjust to what we need to do.”

The bottom line, after all, is the bottom line.

Braley put forth the idea the 2012 Cup can bring up to $120 million of economic benefit to the GTA and the province of Ontario.

“The Grey Cup is the most important financial item that the CFL, outside of television, has,” Braley said.

“To hold a Grey Cup in your community helps build your fans and your fan base. It’s going to be something on a scale here that has not been seen before.”


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