Toronto may have to wait for NFL game

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

You can expect Toronto interests to be at the front of the line now that the door is open for NFL regular-season games to be played outside of the U.S.

It likely won't be the only Canadian city bidding to get in on the action, however.

It's almost a given that the Rogers Centre will house a game sometime before the end of the decade. But a senior league official said yesterday that the NFL anticipates considering multiple Canadian venues.

"We would look at a variety of cities over time," NFL international vice-president Gordon Smeaton, said in an interview. "In Southern B.C., for example, there is great interest in Seattle and there are no shortage of Broncos fans on the prairies."

Smeaton said that in the next 30-45 days, the league will put together a bid process for prospective cities. Canada, Germany, Mexico and England have been pegged as the obvious destinations.

Plans call for one game to be played outside of the U.S. in 2007 with as many as two per year for the duration of the agreement, which runs to 2011. If successful, the deal would extend to 16 years and require each team to play outside the U.S. twice -- once as a "home" team and a "visitor'.

The earliest a game would take place in Toronto is '08 as the NFL has pledged not to mess with the Argos' plans to play host to the Grey Cup.

"There are a variety of scenarios, but the one thing we are not going to do is play in Toronto in 2007," Smeaton said. "We've agreed (with the Argos) that we won't interfere. We want that event to be as successful as possible."

The NFL played its first regular-season game outside of the U.S. last year in Mexico City. Plans for additional games have been expected, but the key was to devising a formula to appeal to all the teams.

To that end, owners will be compensated for lost revenue.


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