NFL Team in London? Let’s Hope Not

Choosing a topic for this article was by no means easy. The NFL's offseason is in full swing, thus much of the news with regards to the NFL is concerned with the draft. Anyone who has read any of my previous articles may be aware that I am English and I still reside in the land of my birth. As a result, I am far from knowledgeable on college football. Consequently, writing about the upcoming draft would have been a bit of a challenge for me, so I have decided to go for something a little closer to home.

During Super Bowl week, talk once again turned towards the possibility of a permanent NFL team in London. According to a senior league official, London could have their own team within 10-12 years.

Opinion on this controversial issue seems to be divided. Many people in America are against the idea, while fans on the other side of the pond would quite like a local team to support. I, however, am not one of those fans.

The support for the one-off games at Wembley Stadium has been staggering. All of the games, including the forthcoming New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have sold-out in next to no time. In fact, there have been thousands of people left disappointed because they had not been able to get tickets.

The overwhelming support for these games is pleasing to see, but they are one-off games. One game a year is a novelty. I believe that is why these games are so popular. Should the NFL allow London to have a permanent team, then the novelty will wear off after a couple of seasons, just like it did with the London Monarchs in the World League.

In the Monarchs' first season in 1991, they drew in an average of 40,483 fans over the five games played at Wembley. The Monarchs also won the inaugural World Bowl in that very season. However, the success wouldn't last. Crowds began to dwindle significantly and by 1995, the team relocated to Tottenham Hotspur F.C.'s White Hart Lane. The 1995 season saw the average attendance drop to a mere 16,343.

Another problem that all the pundits seem to have looked past is where the proposed London team would play their home games. Presumably, the prime candidate would be Wembley Stadium. The stadium is rarely used; therefore, it would definitely be available to host games on a regular basis. The problem is that the pitch will undoubtedly be cut up and ruined on a consistent basis, much like it was after the first London game in 2007.

The notion of a slightly damaged pitch may not seem like a big deal, but it clearly was to the English people. Just one week after the NFL game at Wembley, the England national soccer team played in a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier at Wembley. The English went on to lose, after which many people blamed the loss on the poor state of the pitch. In my eyes, this shouldn't be a problem; after all, the conditions were the same for both teams. However, if it was a problem then, it will probably become a problem, and excuse, again.

So is there anywhere else to play host to a NFL season in London? The soccer stadiums in London, such as the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge, would make good venues, but it is extremely unlikely that teams would allow them to play there for eight games a year. The Olympic Stadium, which is currently under construction, would also make a great venue, but the stadium is going to be reduced in size after the 2012 Olympics.

The only stadium this leaves is Twickenham, the home of the England rugby team. The historic ground is an iconic venue in English sport and it is well known all around the world. It would make a brilliant stage for battle between two NFL teams; but with the England rugby team playing there, the same problem could arise as with the England soccer team at Wembley.

Aside from these problems, there is the logistical nightmare of flying teams half-way around the world for NFL games. Apparently, fears about this should have been eradicated since a West Coast team, the San Diego Chargers, played in London last year. At least this is the view of the same senior official who claims that a London team is around 10 years away. What he seems to be forgetting is that things are easier for a one-off event. His proposals would result in this being a weekly ordeal.

Frankly, I can't ever see London having an NFL team. I know there are plenty of English people who like the idea and they would support the London-based outfit. I, on the other hand, will not buy into the NFL's ridiculous global domination propaganda. If a team does end up in London, I can guarantee that I will still support the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Comments and Conversation

March 12, 2009

Mike Round:

Luke - As one Englishman to another I’m dissappointed you can’t get behind the idea of a London-based NFL franchise. The stadium problem and the drop-off in crowds for Monarchs games is a bit of a weak argument against if I may say- NFL Europe was always a poor relation to the big brother league and the Monarch’s crowds that first year were amazing considering how weak the league’s position was even from the get-go. I was there for 2 games including the World Bowl with Barcelona and the atmosphere rivalled a lot of NFL games. The crowds dropped off only when it became obvious the league was doomed because of low TV ratings in the states. An NFL franchise in London - or Birmingham/Manchester for that matter - would sell out consistently.
Where to play the games if not Wembley? Why not rotate, as the English soccer team did while Wembley was rebuilt? That way nobody can whine about their pitch being dug up every other week and a different geographical region gets the chance to see the game each home game?
England is a tiny country so it’s hardly a big logistical challenge to move home games around and there is at least a dozen stadiums big enough to host an NFL game. By rotating the home stadium, the team doesn’t need to be tagged with the London-somethings, thus alienating all of us who despise all things London!
Anyway - interesting viewpoint and article - cheers, Mike

October 23, 2009


The NFL is a made for tv product! It has no chance of success in a country which isnt used to constant breaks in action to show commercials. Also its a country in love with the original version of football and a strong support for rugby. The NFL will never be huge anywhere except the US and they shoud just accept that. P.S. if they put a team in Toronto that will kill the CFL.

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