- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
The Buffalo Bills won't play a 2014 regular-season game at Rogers Centre in Toronto, pushing it back one year in order to deliver a better fan experience there, the team announced Wednesday.
The game instead will be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., giving the Bills eight regular-season games at the venue for the first time since 2007.
The Bills are 1-5 in games played in Toronto, with declining attendance nearly every year.
"We have not played well up there. We have to take responsibility for that," Bills president Russ Brandon said Wednesday. "When you line up, you play to win. We're not using this, obviously, as an excuse."
The decision comes a little more than a year after the Bills and Rogers agreed to renew the series for five years, though 2017, after the original five-year deal expired. Brandon said the Bills will review the future of the remaining games in the series.
"We're going to go through a detailed, full analysis," Brandon said. "We're going to look at every aspect, that if we do come back, we'll have a more robust fan experience and try to create more of a home field situation for us. Right now, that was not the situation."
The Bills have struggled with local television blackouts after being unable to sell out several games at Ralph Wilson Stadium in recent years. The Toronto series avoided the possibility of blackouts and aimed to increase the team's exposure in Canada, but also caused fans to complain about the atmosphere in Toronto's domed stadium, the Rogers Centre.
"We are in a business and we would be remiss if we did not actively try to further regionalize this franchise. We're in a challenged market -- we all know that -- that is on its way back with the leadership of people in Buffalo," Brandon said. "But regionalization is a key lever for us moving forward. Toronto and the Southern Ontario marketplace will continue to be that.
"That will always be a part of the business plan, because at the end of the day, my responsibility is the long-term viability of this franchise and the Toronto marketplace and Southern Ontario are a key element to that."
Questions were raised regarding the series' future after the Bills 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta at Toronto on Dec. 1.
"This year I would say it was a neutral crowd," Brandon said. "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."
3dEric D. Williams
2dMel Kiper Jr.
3dEric D. Williams