The owner of “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, has spoken. He thinks it is very possible the National Football League could establish a team in the United Kingdom:
London is one of the few cities outside of the United States that would be a great city internationally for the NFL.”
NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium
A lot of people seem to be against it, though. A recent survey found out of 200 fans from the UK, 44% do not want to see the league expand to Europe. Players also seem hesitant.
Andrew Whitworth, an offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, told the Cincinnati Enquirer he knows what he’d do:
I would hope that I was financially able to quit. That’s what I would hope, because if I was, my papers would be the first one in.”
Whitworh is also the team’s representative for the NFL Players Association. He said he’s not alone:
I don’t see that a lot of guys would want to do that. I don’t see any players that would enjoy that. Sure, you may find a handful of guys that say, ‘Oh, hey, that’d be cool,’ but the rest of them wouldn’t.”
Ryan Clark, a safety for the Washington Redskins, agrees with Whitworh:
I’d retire. I’d definitely retire.”
You can’t blame the players. There’s the long distance factor and being away from their friends and loved ones, the challenge of playing in a new market, possibly moving a family to a new country, the food is different, the weather is unusual, and having to spend more time on a plane than practicing.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith told ESPN he thinks the league only cares about money and not players’ safety. Running back Mike Tolbert said he would rather stay in the United States, also:
I would rather not, but if I had to, yeah. It’s just so far from home, my family, everything I know and have grown accustomed to. It’s a nice city. I played there my rookie year , but I would rather not play for a team permanently over there.”
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams said the NFL should focus on helping current franchises build their fan bases, like the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team could do that overseas, though — see this previous post.
Other players are looking at the bright side, like Phladelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce:
But that’s the one thing football doesn’t have, that global area. It’s one of the things that’s cool about soccer and the World Cup. You have that country camaraderie behind it, whereas America, it’s kind of our own deal right now. Anything that’s spreading the NFL to other countries, I think it’s a great idea.”
The NFL will need to find a way to make playing in London attractive if they want a successful international franchise. So far, they haven’t made a move.