Survey shows Toronto Argonauts have public on their side in BMO Stadium issue

Chris Zelkovich
Chris Zelkovich
Survey shows Toronto Argonauts have public on their side in BMO Stadium issue

Toronto FC is definitely being given priority during the expansion of BMO Stadium, but a new survey argues that it's the Toronto Argonauts who should be first in line.

When Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke told The Toronto Sun earlier this week, ``At the end of the day, it's first, TFC. Second, TFC. Third, TFC,ā€ University of Lethbridge researcher Reginald Bibby commissioned a survey to find which team had more public support.

What he found, in a survey of 4,022 Canadians, was significantly more interest in the Canadian Football League -- across the country and in Toronto.

The survey found that 26 per cent of Canadians closely follow the CFL, second only to the NHL. Only 9 per cent said they are close followers of Major League Soccer. In Ontario it was 21 per cent to 10 for the CFL while in Toronto it was 24 per cent for the CFL and only 7 per cent for the MLS.

Those numbers, which Bibby said have an error range of 2 per cent, 19 times in 20, mirror television ratings. While the CFL averages more than 600,000 viewers per game, the MLS struggles to crack the 100,000 mark. Toronto FC's last two games drew an average of 75,000 and 48,000 viewers.

``The findings suggest that the Argonauts may not lack for fan support that readily exceeds that of Toronto FC, if in fact they are able to have the opportunity to share BMO field with the soccer team," Bibby wrote.

BMO was built as a soccer-only stadium and is currently being expanded for the soccer team. But a deal that could make the Argos part of the MLSE empire may hinge on whether or not the stadium can be altered for Canadian football. 

The Argos currently play at the Rogers Centre, but will be evicted no later than the end of the 2017 season because the stadium's owners want to install natural turf and don't want football being played on it.

While Leiweke appeared to be more pro-TFC in an interview with the Sun, a subsequent story in the Toronto Star made him sound much more open to accommodating the Argonauts.

Despite the survey's findings, there's no public policy that states the team with the greatest number of followers should get priority. But the numbers might have carried some weight when BMO was made a soccer-only stadium in the first place.