Earlier this month I’d written a piece with regard to the NFL and their desire to have a franchise in the country’s second most populace city, Los Angeles ,California . The subject seems to arise every few years and it continues to take on a life of its own. At the same the NFL itself hasn’t been at a loss to express its interest in seeing a franchise return to the city. They continue to have support from all the usual places. From the Governor’s office on down to the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa . That being said, the financial burden that’d be placed upon a franchise were it to be a completely new entity may well be a mighty one. As continually the franchise fee entrance into the NFL rises to absurd amounts. The thought however , is the relocation of an existing franchise from another part of the country to the West Coast.
Within the city itself there is a movement by local businessman and wealthy entrepreneur Ed Roski ,Jr to build an all purpose facility, in the hope of luring an existing franchise to the area. Roski and his partners have been canvassing a number of teams around the NFL , including the San Diego Chargers , in particular. And though nothing has yet to be finalized . It is thought unlikely that the NFL would allow such a move to happen. Albeit , that it would appear to be the one that would make the most sense to begin with. However, the Chargers , as the residents of Qualcomm Stadium , in San Diego,- would be unable to move immediately without breaking its lease agreement with the city of San Diego , who are the owners of the stadium.
In contrast the NFL will this weekend have a regularly scheduled game played in London, England at Wembley Stadium. The two participants will be the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And though this isn’t the first time that the league has undertaken such an endeavor. Each time it happens , the more the rumors tend to arise that the NFL is in fact looking to broaden its appeal abroad. Though the league’s ambitions has never been openly discussed as to an international NFL franchise outside North America. There continues to be rumors being placed out there, with each passing maneuver of an NFL regular season game being proposed to be played abroad. And this time around it appears to be no different than before.
Courtesy of Sky Sports;
NFL team could be placed in London if popularity grows
By Paul Higham
NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood told skysports.com a franchise could be based in London within the next six years, if the games at Wembley continue to flourish.
A third game at Wembley takes place on Sunday, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the New England Patriots, and with another 85,000 sell-out on the cards the games continue to grow.
The first game in 2007 did come in for criticism because the newly-laid Wembley pitch was dug up as rain lashed the capital, but as the Giants won and then went on to claim the Super Bowl, any negativity has largely been forgotten.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken of the possibility of playing another regular season game at Wembley, and Kirkwood believes that will be the first step on the road to an NFL team being based in London.
“Whether its 2010 or 2011 I’m not sure but playing two games is definitely a possibility,” Kirkwood told skysports.com. “The key thing is we need to get two teams to give up a home game. And that’s what we’ll be working on after this game.
“We’re a long, long way away from having a fanbase that would support a London team. But we’re getting a track record here. Once it moves to two games and we make a success of that then it becomes closer. If you can then get four games a year then that’s half an NFL season. ” Quote from Alastair Kirkwood Managing Director of NFL UK.
“It’s quite an involved process. The league office talks to the owners of the potential home teams and we get testimonials from teams who have played here – we were lucky the Giants made the Super Bowl after 2007.”
And on the possibility of a franchise in London, Kirkwood added:
“If the stars are aligned and everything was working really well, then I think maybe something like 2015, but for that to happen we’d have to continue to do a really good job every year.
“We’re a long, long way away from having a fanbase that would support a London team. But we’re getting a track record here. Once it moves to two games and we make a success of that then it becomes closer. If you can then get four games a year then that’s half an NFL season.
“The last couple of years have been about proving that the games could work and would be popular. This year we are concentrating on growing the fan base and the popularity of the sport. Once you’ve played enough games then those theoretical discussion about franchises become more realistic.”
Wembley has received glowing praise and players such as the great Tom Brady are thrilled to be playing in London this year, and having the most successful team of the past decade playing in the Patriots just emphasises how the game is growing.
“We’ll have 85,000 in which is our capacity for this year, I was at the stadium earlier today and things are looking really good,” Kirkwood added.
“We have some input in discussions about what away teams would be best for the game, and we’re delighted this year to be welcoming the most successful team of the last decade and players of the calibre of Tom Brady.”
Kirkwood is confident the sport will grow in the UK, and with commissioner Goodell right behind them that dream of a London franchise may not be too far from a reality.
“He’s very supportive of everything we’ve done,” Kirkwood said of Goodell.
“For the last ten years he’s been very focused on building up the UK side of things. We’re relying on him to keep providing us with opportunities to keep staging games and keep extending the fan base.”
On the face of it, – it seems preposterous that the NFL would consider a franchise outside North America. And logistically this would create a nightmare for any team having to prepare to travel from either coast to the UK , in order to prepare for a regular season game. Were it scheduled on a Sunday or part of Monday night football. But herein, lies the rub , the NFL continues to march to beat of its own drum. And they are unlikely to listen to any criticism from anyone , even from within their own midst, much less from the NFL fans in general . NFL UK Managing Director , Alistair Kirkwood, has openly expressed his desire to see an NFL franchise in London, within the next 5 or 6 years. Be that as it may, it does place the NFL in somewhat of a compromising position to an extent. Should they seek out a partner to make this all a reality before embracing the return of a franchise in Los Angeles ? Or is it incumbent upon them(NFL) to seek out new partners in pastures farther afield , if there’s said to be an interest there to begin with ?
The popularity of the game is on the rise and Sunday’s game between the Buccaneers and Patriots is already a sellout. But even with that sort of predisposition it doesn’t necessarily mean the fans will remain completely loyal to the game. Especially when soccer is still the dominant sport in the United Kingdom and right across Europe. And one can only speculate as to whether or not the fans’ loyalties will be equally divided between the two sports. Of this we’re certain, this will be a bold maneuver on the NFL’s part . And there is the belief that a number of fans stateside will not look upon this at all favorably.
Commissioner , Roger Goodell hasn’t openly discussed the matter with the media at large. But one thing is for sure, he’s not about to look a gift horse in the mouth if it means making money for the NFL and its owners. The chance that a willing participant would be willing to dole out in excess of $700 million just to become a franchise member of the NFL shouldn’t at all be scoffed at . And then bear in mind the additional revenue stream that it creates for the NFL as a whole. What’s not to like about it all , at the end of the day ? OK, so there may well be one or two fans here in the US that’ll be uncomfortable with it all. But at the same time those doing the complaining at times are the same ones who can’t see beyond the end of their nose to begin with. The only disadvantage to this all , may well be the fact that having to go to an away game , really will mean having to go away. A really long way as a matter of fact, right across the Atlantic Ocean. But that’s predicated upon those who can afford to travel to see a game in London to the begin with.
Can We All Agree That The NFL Is Here To Stay ? ….. Click here to read this piece in its entirety.