Schumer, Goodell to meet with Bills owner about future

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell will join U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer at an upcoming meeting with Bills owner Ralph Wilson to explore ways to help keep the team in Buffalo, according to the New York Democrat.

Buffalo Bills
Club profile
First season: 1960

Home stadiums: War Memorial Stadium, 1960-1972; Ralph Wilson Stadium (known as Rich Stadium, 1973-1998), 1973-present

Division championships: 10

AFL/AFC championships: 6

Super Bowl appearances: 4

Wilson's decision to schedule some Bills preseason and regular-season games for the first time at the 50,000-capacity Rogers Centre in Toronto as a way to generate more revenue has led to speculation that the franchise will one day move north.

"Commissioner Goodell is committed to doing anything he and the league can to keep the Bills in Buffalo," Schumer said Wednesday after meeting with Goodell in Washington, D.C. The year-old league revenue-sharing agreement that benefits smaller-market teams -- and a better schedule last season that helped the Bills sell out 73,000-capacity Ralph Wilson Stadium in suburban Orchard Park -- were important steps, he said.

"The commissioner discussed several issues with the senator, including the Bills, and agreed to continue the dialogue in the months ahead," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The league approved the deal to send the Bills north for one game a season through 2012 and three preseason games. The Toronto partners are Blue Jays owner Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

"Hey, I can't speculate what's going to happen in the future," Wilson said last week, when asked about the Bills moving north. "But don't worry. Don't worry right now."

Schumer said Wednesday's talks did not address whether other NFL franchises might relocate to the Canadian city. Wilson said he thinks Toronto is ready to support one.

"(Goodell) and I are going up to meet with Mr. Wilson in the near future to discuss the future of the Bills and try to figure out ways we can help the Bills to stay in Buffalo," Schumer told reporters in a conference call.

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, also met with Goodell Wednesday and said they agreed to maintain a dialogue on the team's future. In a letter to Goodell, a Jamestown native, Higgins asked the league to consider amending its constitution to either allow full community ownership, modeled after the Green Bay Packers, whose fans bought the team before the NFL prohibited such arrangements, or at least a minority stake.

The team's lease with the Erie County extends until 2012. Wilson, who is 89, says his family is not interested in running the franchise after him. "Ralph's heart, I have no doubt, his heart is in keeping the Bills in Buffalo. If money were his only goal he would have moved them a long time ago," Schumer said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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