What Are They Thinking? Or Are They?

Oakland. Dallas. Nashville. Three very different cities, but they all have one of the 32 National Football League teams scattered through the United States.

Are we going to add London, England to the list? Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to fan the conversation during an event in London at the beginning of June:

We don’t have a timetable for (a London franchise). We want to continue building interest, and if it continues to go well we believe a franchise could be here.”

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Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner

Does that kind of sound familiar? The NFL had a European league from the 1990’s to 2007, but this plan is different!

Since 2007, at least one American team has played at Wembley Stadium. This year three teams are scheduled to play sold-out games there this fall. The Raiders will play the Dolphins, the Falcons will compete against the Lions, and the Cowboys will meet the Jaguars. In fact, the Jaguars have committed to playing one game for the next four seasons in England.

Atlanta owner Arthur Blank thinks highly of the decision, as he told Fox Sports:

 The games in London, I think are a tribute to the NFL, a tribute to the fans there, the quality of the game — and I think that it’s proved conclusive that fans will come out when they see the real players playing games that are really meaningful, as opposed to NFL Europe.

There’s even talk about the Super Bowl possibly being held in London, but Goodell wanted to clarify that:

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Wembley Stadium

The Super Bowl won’t be played anywhere where we don’t have a franchise.”

The exposure current teams would get in these new markets would be great, but is it worth it?  Hasn’t anyone thought about the challenges that will arise when the NFL expands to a global stage with a team in London? Here are ten problems:

  1. The games will either be taped-delayed in the U.S. or broadcasted live at a weird time. When the Giants played there in 2007, the game was at 1 PM in London and 8 AM in New York. Where will the games air in America? The major networks won’t want to give up their morning programming.
  2. It is going to cost a lot of money to fly these players back and worth, not to mention all the coaches, support staff, and equipment.

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    Vikings vs. Steelers in 2013

  3. The teams will also spend a lot of time traveling and less time practicing, and they’ll be away from their friends and family a lot more.
  4. What about the media? It’s going to cost a lot for outlets to send reporters, photographers, technical directors, and producers to these games. Will the events lack coverage in America because the media doesn’t want to send anyone?
  5. The NFL will have to compete with soccer on the weekends there.
  6. Would it be possible to even fill the 90,000 seats at Wembley? Probably not. That’s bigger than any stadium in the U.S., and it’s already tough to fill those at times. Only 83,000 attend the special games that are played there a few times a year.
  7. The local economy in team’s American towns will be missing out on a lot of revenue. Hotels will be empty, restaurants won’t have a wait, bars won’t need extra beer and waiters, and gas stations won’t need to stock up on hand warmers.
  8. It’s doubtful that Americans will travel to Europe to see football played.
  9. Would a team re-locate or be created? Goodell has said that he wants to keep the league at 32 teams, so that might upset an American market.
  10. Conference changes, scheduling, and playoff issues are also big concerns.

Even people in London aren’t so sure this is the best decision. Jonathan Gardner made this comment to the Associated Press:

It’s a minority sport here, you don’t see people out in the park throwing an American football around,”  ”Football still has to overcome a load of prejudices here, many people think they aren’t real athletes and compare them to rugby players, who are just as physical but don’t need pads.”

Football is an American tradition. The league can keep playing a few games a year internationally, but a team is not needed in London.

The NFL and Goodell need to take a good look at the bigger picture and realize expanding may create more problems and actually cost them money. They’ve already failed once.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and let’s kick off this discussion.