In 2007 the NFL stepped out of America and began the process to bring the game to the UK. 10 years on and the question asked ever so regularly is, ‘when will London get a permanent franchise?’
This year saw 4 games in London for the first time, back to back, another sign of the NFL trying something new to prove a franchise will work over here. Both Wembley and the new Tottenham Hotspur stadiums have deals for 2 games each next season, the question remains whether Twickenham will get any games at all, current rumours suggest this Sundays game between the Browns and Vikings could well be their last match-up.
4 games amount to half a home season a franchise would play, and 2022 is the date mentioned for London to have it’s permanent NFL team for the future. With New White Hart Lane having purpose-built changing rooms and its own separate pitch for the NFL, you can’t see anywhere else being named as the home stadium for this incoming team, Daniel Levy the Tottenham chairman hasn’t missed a trick in knowing how much revenue the NFL will and already does bring into the English economy.
This year may not have seen the best of the 32 teams showcased in London, but what you have to remember is not every game features the best teams and some of these franchises this year have failed to deliver when expected. By the time the Vikings-Browns are finished on Sunday 26 of the 32 teams will have played on these shores and if 2022 is the magic number, you can bet those remaining 6 teams will have played once at least in London and then all systems go.
The NFL have already tried divisional games, rivalry games, back to back games, early kick offs, late kick offs, everything to make sure it’ll work and there won’t be any complications because once this team is in, it’s here to stay. How it will work with regards to where these players will live and re-location plans for those drafted from college will definitely be in the plans of the NFL, along with a base in the US and the logistics of equipment movement.
The expectation is the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the re-located franchise to London, anything but will prove a mockery of everything that is in place for them already, the other option is they will be an expansion franchise, given that the Commissioner Roger Goodell is keen to cut the pre-season programme by 2 games therefore creating the extra space for more franchises.
The one issue for me that still remains is the support for a permanent team in London, general consensus is unless you are a Jags fan, it’s going to be your second team and will that be enough to sell out whoever they play? I believe though that it won’t cause a problem, people are happy to see NFL teams in action whether it’s their own or not and there is plenty of research going on as to ticket prices, 4-8 game season tickets, kick off times etc, there is determination to make this happen and after the deal done with Tottenham, the NFL do not want to be left with egg on their faces.