It’s only a matter of time before the National Football League establishes a team in London, however they’ll first need a place to call home.
The NFL has been under contract since 2007 to play its International Series at Wembley Stadium through 2016, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead.
According to the Sports Business Journal, league officials have started exploring other venues. Chris Parsons, NFL senior vice president of international, confirmed it to the reporter:
Clearly Wembley gives us some great options. At the same time, Wembley also has England [soccer] games going on during the weeks we play. That is a challenge for us if we want to play more games, how we actually fit into the schedule.”
Even if the NFL didn’t have to work around soccer games at Wembley, it would be great if the league could continue playing sold-out games there, but that’s just not a reality.
We are constantly looking at where we can play, what options we might have. We would be stupid not to.”
Wembley is built for about 90,000 spectators, yet there are only about 84,000 available seats once you consider the space needed for the teams and broadcasting equipment.
Filling 84,000 seats for eight home games will never happen, as SBJ reports:
The average capacity at NFL teams’ venues last season was about 71,000.”
Wembley has nearly 2,000 more seats than MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. There’s no way a new franchise can expect to play in what could be the biggest NFL stadium.
The only reason the league can sell-out the venue now is because there are only a couple games a year, which creates more of a demand and carries a “can’t miss” vibe. The league will see if it adds four games in 2015 and possible five games in 2016, the demand may not be quite as high.
If the league wants to make this London franchise successful, it has to avoid empty seats.
Olympic Stadium is a possible alternative. It will reopen in 2016 after a lengthy renovation with around 54,000 seats. There is talk that it will have retractable bleachers near the field to accommodate football and soccer games.
London mayor Boris Johnson was in talks with league officials about Olympic Stadium just two years ago.
The talks were exploratory and we are at an early stage but the signs are encouraging.”
There’s even word of plans to build a soccer-football specific 58,000-seat venue to open in 2017.
Some suggest the NFL stay put in Wembley. Terry Byrne, a marketer, says:
The problem with playing in the home of an EPL team is that fans of other soccer clubs might not want to go to that venue even to watch American football.”
Either way, the NFL is going to have to find the perfect venue and step on some toes along the way. There aren’t many options, so finding the right one will be tough and will either make or break whether a team calls London home. Good luck, guys!