Updated for 2012: Why the London franchise will NEVER EVER happen
Over the past few years, roughly around the time they announce the next NFL International Series game someone always comes out and states that the aim of the NFL is to one day have a franchise in the UK. This year it has been even worse. With two games and the possibility of a third the idea of a London franchise in the NFL seems to be growing ever closer. Not since the invention of the inflatable dart board has a decision been made to benefit a sport (Easier to deflate and carry) that was so utterly wrong. On the face of it this seems like it would be a good idea for all concerned; every game played at Wembley so far has sold out.
There is a large-ish fan base that is passionate and supportive of what NFLUK is trying to do and it is an untapped market with bags of potential, not just in the UK but across Europe. Below are some of the main reasons London or anywhere else outside North America will never get a franchise. For ease of talking about the potential team this article will call them the “London Warriors” after the UK team. Logistics
The world is getting smaller. You can now get to New York from London Heathrow in around seven hours which doesn’t seem unreasonable. However, at least once or twice a season the Warriors would have to travel to the West Coast. After a quick search it seems the average flight to Seattle from London is 12 hours and to San Diego it is 17 hours; both have changes in Chicago. I know this because my wife is going to San Diego next week and having a meeting at Petco Park, not that I am bitter or jealous. The real problem is not actually the distance or the time, it is the proximity of the games to each other. Currently the teams that come over the UK have a bye week either before or after to recover from the trip. A 16 game schedule would cripple a franchise before it even got started. Time zone is also a huge factor. If the London team was on Monday Night Football they would have to kick off at 1:30am! No thank you.
Where would a potential team play? They couldn't play at Wembley every week. The home of association football has a busy schedule of games throughout the autumn including England internationals. I remember after the first NFL match-up at the new Wembley between the Giants and the Dolphins there was uproar about the state of the pitch and some believed it contributed to England’s soccer team failing to qualify for the European Championships.
Would a purpose built stadium need to be built? Would they take it on tour to places like Germany, Ireland and Scotland? The middle ground would be to have a team that is based in the US but travels some of the season. Again this would be a logistical nightmare for the schedulers.
There are several other cities in North America that are much further up the list as potential relocation or expansion cities. Los Angeles is the second largest city in America but has no football team. LA could easily accommodate two football teams. There are also other potential cities such as San Antonio, Toronto, and Salt Lake City. London is not a hotbed of football like the cities mentioned.
Everybody who watches NFL in the UK already has a team that they support. If the NFLUK forums are anything to go by the UK are passionate and fiercely loyal. As a Houston Texans fan I love nothing more than sitting down with Until Kickoff contributor and Indianapolis Colts fan Andy Mackay and arguing about the goings on in the AFC South. I am not sure how many people would switch allegiances to a team they know nothing about. The International Series is a special event and as such people will pay the one-off fee of a couple of hundred pounds for tickets. travel and accommodation to the game, especially if it is a team they support. They will not be willing to pay this 8 times a season.
How many NFL players would like to be drafted from, let's say, the University of Southern California to come play in Europe? Not many, I suppose.
The tax in the UK is much higher than in any US state. Each state provides tax breaks, stadium funding and even law to help teams stay in the city. Sports just don’t work that way in the UK - just look at the Olympic Stadium uproar regarding West Ham United. Laws would have to be signed to exempt the team, the players, the stadium from the UK tax codes and regulations. This would be political suicide for any Government. As much as I like to think, American Football just isn’t that popular in the UK.
Now that my rant is over. I am not trying to be a killjoy, just realistic.
I'm trying to think of a good name for the franchise. Some of my ideas are below. What are yours?
London Riots London Monarchs London Royals European Union London Never Happenings