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Could An NFL Team Come To London?

Could An NFL Team Come To London?

The NFL enjoyed another successful International Series at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as both matches in the venue sold out and provided intense drama. The demand for tickets and the drama on the field has intensified calls for a franchise to be moved to London, and specifically Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has long been an advocate for a franchise in London after he took the decision to take NFL games over the pond in 2007. He was justified in his decision, as the International Series has been an overwhelming success. Goodell believes that the NFL could be ready for a London franchise in the near future. The question is whether a London franchise could be successful?

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Logistics

The two sides that met at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 9th had contrasting fortunes in their respective seasons. The New York Giants appeared to embrace the trip and it paid off as they improved to 4-1 with a win over the Green Bay Packers, who dropped to 3-2 in their campaign. The Giants’ NFL odds for the Super Bowl were strengthened with their victory. New York improved their standing in the NFC East and the NFC Conference as a whole by building on their London win with another triumph over the Baltimore Ravens in the following week.

NFL Team

The Packers struggled on their return home, suffering a defeat at the hands of the New York Jets to slump to 3-3 in their campaign. The Packers’ issues may be a red flag to the proposal of a London franchise. A new team would be forced to fly back and forth over the Atlantic on a regular basis, leaving little time for rest and recuperation. It is also a massive operation to move an entire roster of players, coaches and support staff overseas for a short period of time.

The London team and other sides travelling to the United Kingdom would face a huge financial burden to bear the costs. Questions would emerge about when to travel either to the UK or across to the United States, and what equipment would be required. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar organization, so, it would have no issues in that regard. Additional revenue would certainly be generated from the additional franchise from ticket sales, merchandise and television rights. The only debate would be whether it would be worth the money to create potential disruption to the league’s schedule and established franchises.

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Morale

Then there is the issue of morale for players and staff. American football is a game played by athletes from the United States. Although its origins come from rugby, the sport is an American institution. To ensure the integrity of the league, the best players from the NFL and emerging from the college ranks would need to play for the London franchise. Those players would need to move to London and bring their families with them. It would be a massive move overseas and would involve a shift in culture.

There would no doubt be issues with homesickness. Foreign players have made the journey to play football in the Premier League and the other divisions in England without issues. However, given that these players would be the only players in the country playing for a professional team, there could be problems afoot. Players have been outspoken participating in one game, so imagine what the response would be to be told you’re playing for a London franchise for six months of the year.

Currently, there are roughly 1,800 players on roster across the NFL, which is a tiny percentage of people that hope to play the game at the highest level. So, players are certainly not in a position to turn down the chance to play for a franchise, no matter the location. But, whether the great players could be convinced to move to London and remain there to make it a competitive outfit would be a contentious problem. The likelihood is probably not.

Sustainability

The International Series has been an overwhelming success. There were doubters whether fans in the UK and the rest of Europe would take to the NFL. However, they have been proved wrong spectacularly by desire and the intelligence of the crowds that have flocked to Wembley Stadium, Twickenham and, since 2019, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The success generated so much demand that games have been increased from the solitary one to five matches, including one in Mexico City. In 2022, Germany will host an NFL game for the first team when the Seattle Seahawks take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Allianz Arena in Munich.

NFL Team

Tickets were snapped up at an incredible rate as 770,000 people attempted to get their seat in the 60,000-seater venue. It has since been revealed that there was enough demand for three million spectators. That is music to the ears of Goodell and owners of the 32 NFL franchises. Even though the International Series in its 15th year, the game remains extremely popular and sells tickets at a better rate than a portion of franchises.

Whether that would remain if there was a London franchise that struggled to the degree of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans could be a decisive issue. In the past when Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium have sold out it is argued that fans were coming to see the opposing side rather than the Jaguars, who were designated as the home outfit. That would not be a good sight for the NFL, who have already had the same problem in Los Angeles with the Rams and the Chargers at SoFi Stadium, despite the success on the field with the Rams.

Fans in the United Kingdom and Europe are already strongly affiliated with teams already entrenched in the NFL. It would take a lot for them to give up that fandom to back a London franchise. The NFL would look at attracting a new fanbase towards a London franchise, but it would be a gamble, albeit a calculated one based on the popularity of the sport.

Future

There is no doubt there is scope for a London franchise in the NFL. But, there are also questions that must be answered by the league before they make the bold choice. It will affect everyone involved in the league, and it should not be a decision made lightly. They need at least another three years of evidence before broaching the issue to take to the owners and players.

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