TORONTO – Toronto FC shouldn’t be affected on the field by the ownership change in the club’s parent company announced on Friday, but it could result in broader television exposure of their games.
In the blockbuster move, telecommunications giants Bell Canada and Rogers Communications announced a deal to buy 75 percent of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of Toronto FC that also owns the NHL’s Maple Leafs (and their farm club) and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.
Rogers Communications already owns the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball, and Friday’s deal creates a super-group of Toronto’s major sports franchises. That association provides TFC stability in ownership, according to MLSE executive vice president and chief operating officer Tom Anselmi.
“Stability of ownership is always important for a team and [for] the last several months, there has been some level of uncertainty there,” Anselmi told MLSsoccer.com on Friday.
There had been recent speculation that the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan – the controlling shareholder in MLSE – had been looking to divest its holdings in the sports conglomerate.
In the short term, the deal won’t affect Toronto FC's on-field product. Next year’s budget has been approved, and head coach Aron Winter and director of player development Paul Mariner are working on putting the 2012 team together.
“Next year is all about building on the second half of last year, filling in a few holes with some more pieces,” Anselmi said. “But in the long term, it’s more about off the pitch. It’s no secret we’ve had trouble getting all of our games on the right media and that kind of thing. This will just give us better distribution of all of our media and our games and it’s good for the fans.”
In an issue unrelated to Friday’s announcement, it is possible that Toronto FC could be playing at Rogers Centre for the March 7 home leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against the LA Galaxy.
Anselmi said on Friday a decision had not been made about whether to play outdoors at BMO Field or under the retractable roof of Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays.
There are issues at both venues. At Rogers Centre, the artificial turf is not good for soccer and BMO Field needs upgrades to deal with winter weather.
“Last year, we probably had $100,000 in frozen pipes and snow removal costs just for that first regular season game [March 26],” Anselmi said. “The reason the decision is taking so long is figuring out long-term decisions. We’re going to play games in March forever, we know that.”