The “will they or wont they” saga is finally over. Toronto’s beloved “football” franchise has found itself a new home. As it just so happens, that home is already occupied by Toronto’s other football club.
By “football” I mean literally American-style, I mean Canadian-style football team the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. After seeing their sweetheart of a deal at the Rogers Centre set to expire in 2017 without the possibility of renewal, the Argos, Toronto’s most successful transient franchise, would’ve been homeless.
The city councilors, who probably wouldn’t so much as blink an eye if TFC was to go belly up, have made it their civic duty to save a franchise that refuses to build itself a home. That, by far, is the saddest part.
You don’t need a degree in horticulture to understand that several 300 pound men with cleats in a notoriously wet climate is not good for the longevity of grass fields. The fact that the grass would even be reinforced with artificial grass doesn’t solve the issue either. One needs only look at the condition of the pitch at Wembley after the NFL got their hands on it to see the damage that can be caused.
No, this isn’t about TFC fans not wanting to share a stadium. It’s not ideal but it’s not a horrible concept. The deal in place that will allow the Argos to play at BMO is one that holds next to no benefit for the Argos. The issue, for the most part anyways, is grass roots. Literally.
Seeing a soccer game played on a football field painted with yard lines is a sight that takes MLS soccer back to its infancy and is one of the major concerns of soccer fans in the city. And on top of that, no one, soccer or football fan, wants to watch a group of respectable athletes playing in a mud filled pigsty.
TFC fans are left asking themselves a few questions:
1. Is Tim Leiweke to be believed when he said that TFC will always be the priority tenant and that fans will never see football lines on the soccer field?
2. Are we to believe that, Wembley being the example, BMO Field will not suffer from the added usage?
3. Can this actually work?
As I alluded to earlier, the saddest part of this whole scenario is, as other writers have said before me, is the fact that Argos fans aren’t the ones who are pissed at their ownership for not investing in their beloved team.
A team with as much history and as many titles as the Argos should take pride in their accomplishments (albeit in a league with only 8 teams) and reward their fans with a home of their own. A place where they can put up as many logos as they want, have proper coloured seating in addition to every other creature comfort for the average pointy ball fan to have the experience tailored specifically to them.
But no. They would rather join the unholy alliance of MLSE and its ownership group and continue to be second class tenants in someone else’s home.
TFC fans have all the right in the world to be upset with the powers that be, especially if this change somehow has an effect on the soccer experience and atmosphere that many have come to love about an intimate BMO Field. Why should we believe them? There have been countless instances in TFCs short history where we have been lied to and promises have been made but not kept.
I, among many others in the TFC community, will be taking a wait and see approach and who knows, this could be turn into a long and fruitful relationship… but I’ll believe it when I see it because as history as shown us before, they can talk the talk but have extreme difficulty walking the walk.
Many won’t see it the way I do or will refuse to paint aa bleak a picture, but the Argos moving into BMO could be an existential threat to TFC. Not in terms of finances, but in terms of relevance. If the Argos, the secondary tenant of BMO, are able to win multiple championships in a stadium where the primary tenant, TFC, has failed for nearly a decade, it will be hard to throw away the notion of the Argos being the de-facto priority tenant. If that is the case, then all bets are off when it comes to keeping BMO a soccer first facility like we’ve been told it will always be.
To sum it up, if there was ever a time for TFC to start winning, not necessarily just for their fans but for their own well-being, that time is most certainly right now.
(image courtesy of Toronto Argonauts)