Money talks. It is as simple as that. No one ever wants to turn down an opportunity to make more money in a deal. The NFL is the embodiment of this sentiment, jumping at whatever opportunity they can to expand its revenue stream.
The latest idea for the league to broaden its financial horizons centers around the idea of placing an NFL franchise in London. Those in favor of the move overseas have pointed to the recent success of the NFL’s games held every year in the country’s capital city. Games tend to sell out quickly and have been wildly popular up to this point but I think it would be hard to create a dedicated fan base that would go to games regularly.
What makes the NFL London games such a hit is their novelty. Playing three or so games a year is good exposure on a different continent for the NFL but implementing eight games every year might begin to see the excitement dwindle. Once the experience is no longer quite as unique, the desire to attend these games starts to wear off.
There is some proof that NFL teams in Europe tend to fail to find support. NFL Europe is no longer around for a reason. The expansionary developmental league folded after the 2007 season. Most of those teams were based in Germany but the fan base was not there. Much of that can probably be attributed to the lower level of play in NFL Europe. NFL stars in their prime were hardly lining up to go play overseas.
To that point, I don’t think a London franchise would have much success attracting free agents either. Very few players, especially well established ones in the league, are going to want to uproot and move abroad if they can stay in the continental United States. London would have to shell out significantly more money than any current teams if it had any hopes of landing a top player. It is a hard sell for a team to convince a player that he should move to a different country to play football when he can easily find a job in the US already.
Moving past finding players, logistics would make this setup a nightmare. With a team player eight games a year across the pond, visiting teams would not be given the customary bye week following the game that they receive now. Right off the bat, that will be a hotly contested issue in planning.
Attempting to work out players becomes increasingly difficult as well. Teams now can easily fly in two or three prospects to work them out during a given week if they are in a bind before a game. However, a team would not realistically fly players overseas just to work them out. That definitely complicates things.
In talking with Bob Wischusen, radio announcer for ESPN Radio, I found out that the plan in place to solve that last issue could be to have the team’s home base be set in Orlando, Florida. All scouts and player personnel would be set up there and that would allow them to evaluate talent appropriately.
However, the time difference then comes into play as coaches and scouts then have to communicate across time zones. That complicates things even further when the team needs to make a quick decision about whether to sign a player. Other things like the trade deadline or the waiver wire could also come into play as being something the NFL needs to figure out.
Overall, the whole situation is beyond complicated. Setting up a team in London would be a mistake by the NFL because of all of moving parts that would need to be figured out and the general lack of interest from players and fans. If the NFL is truly intent on expanding it’s international approach then planning games in Toronto, Mexico City or Hamburg, Germany should be the next steps to take. The novelty of these games is what attracts fans and makes it a unique event.
Maybe one day, the league can look to put a franchise overseas, but for now, that simply isn’t something the NFL is capable of handling.