American Football - Bills shelve plans for Toronto game this season

The National Football League's Buffalo Bills will not play their annual game in Toronto this year and are re-evaluating the series, the team said on Wednesday.


In an effort to expand the team's fan base, the Bills have played a regular-season game in Toronto's Rogers Centre in each of the past six years as part of an agreement with Rogers Media that was extended in 2013 for another five years.

"We're going to look at every aspect (so) if we do come back we have a more robust fan experience and try to create more of a home-field advantage for us," Bills president Russ Brandon told reporters.

"Right now, that was not the situation. That was one of the reasons we want to get into a lot of detail with our partners up there and see if that is viable moving forward."

Buffalo had high hopes heading into their first Toronto game in 2008 but high ticket prices, a struggling team in the midst of a lengthy playoff drought and the atmosphere inside the Rogers Centre have combined to put the series in jeopardy.

The Bills are 1-5 in Toronto and have yet to enjoy much of a home-field environment despite playing those games about a two-hour drive from Buffalo.

Last December the Bills fell 34-31 in overtime in front of a sparse crowd that seemed to have as many fans cheering for the Atlanta Falcons as Buffalo.

"Obviously we're trying to build a fan base north of the border and last year I would say it was a neutral crowd," said Brandon.

"Some of that had to do with how we played over the last six years has really not been conducive to building a lot of fans that were NFL fans, but we're trying to make them Bills fans."

The Toronto series was initially announced in 2008, with Rogers paying close to $80 million for five regular-season games and three pre-season contests.

Brandon estimates that 18 percent of fans attending Bills home games in Buffalo are from the Canadian province of Ontario, about double what it was before the Toronto series.

In the end, that may not be enough to offset the dismal record Buffalo has recorded in Toronto.

"It's been a roller-coaster from the standpoint of just the losses. That's on us. We take full responsibility for that," said Brandon.

"I think there have been positives. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest positive has been the influx of fans back here at Ralph Wilson Stadium."

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