For Sale: The Toronto Argos

Hey Argos Empire!

Couple of weeks ago, I woke up to my twitter feed full of stories and comments about Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) potentially being interested in acquiring the Toronto Argonauts.

Hmmm…

Well, let’s talk about the current ownership situation.

Senator David Braley currently owns the BC Lions as well as the Toronto Argos.  He is currently…What was that?  “Conflict of interest” you say?  Okay, lemme explain how he became the Argos owner.  in 2009, Argos ownership partners Howard Sokolowski & David Cynamon were looking to unload the team.  Although the team had won the Grey Cup in 2004, they were losing money and couldn’t keep the franchise afloat.  After several failed attempts to sell the team, Braley stepped up to take over the Argos.  Y’see, David Braley has been on the CFL Board of Governors for…Well, forever.  He loves the league and didn’t want to see the oldest sports franchise in North America to crumble.  The Board of Governors agreed, but to ensure there was no (well, bare minimum) controversy, the Argos and Lions play early in the season to avoid immediate playoff implications.  But, as the title suggests, David Braley is a Canadian Senator.  I know, I know; THAT’S not WORK!  But he’s 72 and he does have other obligations that make owning two teams on almost opposite sides of the country terribly difficult.

So, the 100th Grey Cup champs are for sale.

The question:  Who’s buying?

Any person, company, or group interesting in buying the Argos will be facing several challenges; how to maintain the success they currently enjoy on the field, how can they market the team successfully in the nation’s largest metropolitan area (an issue that I discussed here), and where to build a new facility…Oh, didn’t you hear?  Rogers Centre is kicking ’em out.   This makes the process a lot more complicated.  Where do you build?  Who will use it?  And who will pay for it?

Let’s take a look as some potential suitors, shall we?

No, not YOU!

No, not YOU!

MLSE

Oh yeah...THOSE guys.

Oh yeah…THOSE guys.

 

Why It Works:
They own the Marlies, the Leafs, the Raptors, and FC, but more importantly, their facilities.  Specifically BMO field.

New dock for the Boatmen?

New dock for the Boatmen?

The field dimensions are (nearly) perfect, the location is fair (it’s on the transit line, but not as convenient as Rogers Centre), and it’s a smaller, more intimate venue.  These are all the things the Argos are looking for.  So, are they the next owners of the Toronto Argonauts?  Not necessarily.  All we know for sure is they’ve inquired about acquiring the team.

Why It Doesn’t Work:
If you believe the conspiracy theorists, the only reason MLSE is (possibly) interested in the Argos is to prove to the NFL that they can make football work in North America’s 3rd largest market.  MLSE has a partnership agreement with the Buffalo Bills to host 8 games over 6 years at Rogers Centre, but the launch was handled so poorly, it became the punchline to many GTA sports fans.  The crowds have been better, and many point to the fact that fans would come out in droves to support a Toronto NFL franchise before they turn out for a neutral site tilt.  The point being that some vocal folk believe the NFL in Toronto would be a death knell for the Argos and possibly the entire CFL.  I’m not convinced as I don’t believe that every Argos fan is simply biding their time until the NFL arrives and they can jump ship, but you can’t deny the massive cultural juggernaut that is the National Football League.  The league has said they aren’t looking to Canada as to not ruin the relationship they have with the CFL (the NFL entered into a 10 year financial agreement with the CFL in ’97 to help keep the league afloat).  I believe the leagues could coexist in the market, but having the same ownership might not be the right fit for either.  Also, MLSE has an absolutely abysmal title record (the Raptors, Marlies, and FC have never won, and as for the Leafs…Well…) that makes some Argos fans wince at the thought of the 16 time Grey Cup champs being swallowed up in the black hole that is Toronto pro sports.

Reebok

Will "The Vector" come to the rescue?

Will “The Vector” come to the rescue?

Why It Works:
Reebok is the “Official Outfitter of the CFL” so, why not look into ownership?  The marketing machine that is world’s #2 sporting goods producer (owned by Adidas, trailing only Nike) would have a field day with the blank canvas of a new stadium.  We’re talking about the CFL’s most complete fan shop anywhere!  Speaking of marketing, the Greater Toronto Area would be absolutely flooded in Double Blue with the focused power of Reebok powering the Argos promotion engine.  Money wouldn’t be an issue for a multinational like this, but the stadium while football first, would probably be multifunctional to encompass as many sports as Reebok equips as possible.  They’re also no stranger to stadium sponsorship, as they currently have Reebok Stadium in Manchester, England.

Why It Doesn’t Work:
The fact that they have a contract with the entire league that will eventually expire (remember when Puma was doing Argos jerseys?) would mean there’s the potential to have a rival company’s product all over your building.  Speaking of buildings, a location for one would need to be found and built.  Are they interested in providing that kind of infrastructure for the league and the area?

Canadian Tire

"Wish we had a guy like Albert."

“Wish we had a guy like Albert.”

Why It Works:
A Canadian institution for 91 years partnering with a Canadian institution for 140 years? Whoooo…The history!  Canadian Tire has been outfitting athletes of all ages for generations, and runs the jumpstart program that helps with the cost of getting children involved in sport.  This past spring, they entered into a sponsorship agreement with the Ottawa Senators to rename their home arena The Canadian Tire Centre. They have recently acquired The Forzani Group of sporting goods stores (SportChek, Atmosphere, and National Sports) as well as Pro Hockey Life to become the nation’s #1 retail sporting goods company.  A stronger link with the Canadian Football League would be a great match.

Why It Doesn’t Work:
The company has a definite hockey focus, as the retailer synonymous with Canada has partnered with the game synonymous with Canada.  Football is a difficult sport from a retail perspective (at least in Ontario) as many clubs equip their players on their own.  They could use their team sports banner in Ontario, National Sports, but the chain has only 18 stores, which doesn’t have the nationwide cache of Canadian Tire.  And, there’s still a stadium to be built.

TSN

Canada's home for the CFL

Canada’s home for the CFL

Why Does It Work:
Do you remember when TSN owned the Argos from ’94 to ’95? It happened!  The Sports Network has been in the business of talking about and promoting sport since ’84.  They have been the exclusive broadcaster of the Canadian Football League since ’08.  Can you imagine what they could do with their own building?  Being in from the start of the design process to ensure the best camera angles, perfect acoustics.  Heck, they’re owned by Bell, so why not make it a wifi hotspot and a more attractive cell tower?  There’s tonnes of potential with this type of partnership.

Why It Doesn’t:
There are (Western) conspiracy theorists that believe TSN only cares about Toronto sports as it is.  Entering this type of partnership would do nothing to dismiss this theory.  Contrary to the other companies on this list, TSN has not entered into any building license agreements.  Bell’s partial ownership of MLSE would mean they would more likely lean toward their experience with pro sports ownership rather than having TSN foot the bill.  Oh, and they don’t own any land to build on (a bit of a running theme).

The Fans
The Rail RidersWhy It Works:
What if the team went public?  What if CEO Chris Rudge and Vice-President Pinball Clemons answered to a board of directors?  What if you (yes YOU!) could buy shares in the Toronto Argonauts?  It’s worked for the Green Bay Packers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  This would guarantee the club stays in town, it would step up the image of the organization in the city, and would ensure some seriously fan-friendly experiences year round for the Double Blue.

Why It Doesn’t Work:
Is there enough interest for the Argos to sell 400,000 shares at $200 a pop?  Sure, we’re all fans here, but does a team that draws on average a hair over 21,000 to each home game following a Grey Cup championship have the type of following like the Packers and ‘Riders to profit from public ownership?  We’re talking about 1 in every 14 residents of the GTA buying shares in the Toronto Argos.  The math seems simple, but people’s interests do make it complicated.

Just some thoughts.  Who do you think should be the one to helm the Argos Empire?

photos courtesy of mlse.com www.mediacastermagazine.comand nukesoccer.com

logos via huntlogo.com, lyngsat-logo.com, cantire.taleo.net

There was lots of wikipedia.com research in this one.

 

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