Bring on London – NFL Style

The NFL’s key game this week appears to be one of the worst matchups on the Week Seven schedule. With the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to square off in London, England, football fans seem to have very different opinions on the worth of an overseas NFL game.

For the detractors of such a game, the principal reason is simple: the league shouldn’t be focused on expanding its game in Europe. There are markets in North America that seem far more feasible to house a National Football League franchise, so why not give them a taste of some game action? It’s widely speculated that Los Angeles will have a team again before too long, and of course, there’s Toronto. I’ll come back to T.O. in a little bit.

In addition to the potentially scarce market, the NFL lacks a key component that Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League all possess – international star power. MLB plays games at the beginning of the season in Asia, because there are a plethora of Asian players in the majors right now, most notably Ichiro Suzuki. The NBA is expanding into the Chinese market, but they have Yao Ming. And then there’s the NHL, with dozens of players hailing from Europe and Russia. The NFL does not possess this quality. The closest thing the NFL might have would probably be Tom Brady.

But even with some factors against playing these annual games in England, the NFL would be stupid not to explore the possibilities. The bottom line is, these games make money. Europe is a sports-crazed society much like North America, they just don’t have the exposure to the NFL. Sure, NFL Europe wasn’t a success. But maybe if the NFL placed something other than a minor league system across the Atlantic, it just might work. With this year’s game in particular, there are very strategic reasons for the Pats and Bucs to be there. The Patriots are probably the most globally recognized NFL franchise due to their success this decade, while the Buccaneers owner, Malcolm Glazer, happens to own Manchester United – the most valuable sports franchise in the world according to Forbes Magazine. Bringing these two teams covers fans who may wish to see the Patriots, as well as satisfying Glazer for his commitment to the league.

Then there’s the difference between this international NFL game compared to the one coming up December 3 at the Rogers Centre. These games couldn’t be more opposite. The NFL spends millions marketing this game both in England and North America, yet puts almost no focus on what will be the second annual Toronto game. It once again boils down to money. The Patriots/Buccaneers game sold out in six minutes. I just checked ticket availability for the Jets/Bills, and could have bought four tickets in a row, field level, 15 rows back. The price of the tickets? I’ll leave that out for now to prevent vomiting.

The bottom line is that the NFL will/should continue its endeavors across the Atlantic as long as they are profitable. There’s too much untapped money in the European sporting market for the NFL to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Commissioner Roger Goodell’s claims of potential expansion to Europe within 10-15 years become a reality. At the end of the day, it’s all about making money. And that is something the National Football League does quite well.

 

TWO POINT CONVERSION

– whoever made the NFL schedule this year must love the Indianapolis Colts. Two bye weeks in a row? Sorry, the second one actually says “at St. Louis”. It’s easy to get those two confused right now

– alright Minnesota, amaze me. You’ve played three road games – against Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis. Only one of your games hasn’t been in a dome (Cleveland). Against solid teams (Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore), your average margin of victory is only four points – and those were home games. Have fun at Heinz Field against Pittsburgh

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