Former Toronto mayor David Miller to MLSE: Do not convert BMO Field to accommodate CFL

MLS commissioner Don Garber, left, and then-Toronto mayor David Miller, right, pose with a Danny Dichio Toronto FC scarf and the MLS Cup on Mar. 30, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre. They are joined by the members of Toronto FC supporters' group, Red Patch Boys. Major League Soccer awarded Toronto FC the game for the 2010 season.

MLS commissioner Don Garber, left, and then-Toronto mayor David Miller, right, pose with a Danny Dichio Toronto FC scarf and the MLS Cup on Mar. 30, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre. They are joined by the members of Toronto FC supporters’ group, Red Patch Boys. Major League Soccer awarded Toronto FC the game for the 2010 season.

BMO Field was constructed when David Miller was Toronto’s mayor. He was mayor when the city and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment came to an agreement to replace the FieldTurf surface with natural grass. He was an unabashedly pro-soccer mayor.

And, now that new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment President Tim Leiweke has publicly stated that the team is looking at all possibilities when it comes to a renovation of BMO Field, including possibly making it a flexible venue that could host CFL games, it looks as if Miller has decided to say something. On Miller’s Facebook page appeared the text of an open letter to MLSE.

There are other grievances as well. The letter is featured below. If you want to comment to the former mayor’s Facebook page, CLICK HERE.

Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment
50 Bay Street, Ste 500
Toronto, Ontario
M5J 2L2

Dear Sirs:

TFC Management Changes

I am writing because I believe that the recent management changes at TFC, and your president’s comments on football/artificial turf, have seriously jeopardized the future of this club. From the moment Coach Cummins was allowed to leave, the team has jumped each year from one playing vision to its opposite, thereby preventing on field progress. At the same time, the experience of the supporters has declined – together with their passion. This is amply demonstrated by the fact that it is now necessary to have someone sing the national anthem, when previously supporters sang O Canada themselves, unaided.

Since the failed hiring of Preki as its coach, the club has desperately needed stability. Hiring an experienced and high level President/GM, only to fire him a few months later, is exactly the opposite of what is needed. It was either wrong to hire Mr. Payne, to fire him, or both. Similarly, either pursuing a skilled young player like Urruti for two years was wrong, trading him three weeks after acquisition was wrong – or both.

Here is my advice:
- Stabilize the management. Change simply has to stop – this is the last chance to get it right.
- Stabilize the team. Today, there are at least signs of passion and hard work on the pitch. Build on that with selective change. Don’t start over.
- Stabilize the experience. End the speculation about the Argonauts CFL team coming to BMO. Mr. Leiweke’s suggestion that they might, and the necessary implication that they would play on artificial turf, was the wrong thing to say, at this time in particular. You risk losing the most committed supporters of TFC if the venue is changed to accommodate Canadian football, particularly if turf returns.

As you know, I have been an ardent supporter of TFC since you and MLSE first had the vision to bring Major League Soccer to Toronto. I have supported the team through thick and thin, defended management, was one of the first season ticket holders, and, in my former capacity, was instrumental in building the stadium and supporting its conversion to grass.

I am so frustrated with the latest management missteps that I am returning the remainder of my season tickets to you: it is the only way I can emphasize how serious the situation is for those of us who support TFC. Please donate them to an appropriate cause.

There once was magic at BMO Field. The latest reshuffle has made the possibility of that magic returning almost certainly disappear.
David Miller

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.