The NFL has had a presence in London since 2007 in the “International Series” where a game was hosted at London’s Wembley Stadium during the NFL regular season. This year, two games have been played there, while next year there will be three games played. Due to the novelty of American Football, the games have been successful in drawing mostly sellout crowds. All of this fanfare has brought up the possible expansion or relocation of an NFL team to the United Kingdom. For NFL fans this must be an exciting idea, but to me it as a preposterous attempt by the NFL to make more money.
This interest in expanding the NFL just makes me think. A team from LA or Seattle playing a team in London—how does that even make any sense? Why would teams agree to this? It would be unfair for either team to fly that long. The New England Patriots are the closest team to London, and that is still a seven hour plane ride.
Getting a team to London would seem artificial as well because moving an American franchise overseas would be more of a novelty rather than having a home grown team that has a connection with London. It would be difficult to lure free-agents to London because they would be distanced from their families. This would result in uncompetitive teams, and the London-based team would turn to the NFL draft to become competitive, and it would be unfair to force athletes that have just come from college to move all the way to London, to be paid rookie-level salaries.
A more viable option would be to have an NFL team based in Mexico City because at least Mexico City has a central time zone similar to that of other teams. But hey, I have an even better idea! How about Los Angeles? It doesn’t make sense that London should be a source of interest for an NFL team if the second largest city in the US still doesn’t have a team. The city of Los Angeles has been pining for an NFL team since 1995, when the Raiders and Rams left to go to Oakland and St. Louis. Los Angeles has multiple stadium projects that have been approved by the city and happen to be shovel-ready, and all they need is for an NFL team to commit to relocation. If there happens to be any lingering questions about whether or not the city of Los Angeles would have enough fans to make a team’s relocation viable, why not have some of these exhibition games in Los Angeles, rather than the brutal plane flight which is London?
This goes to show that the NFL’s priorities are out of order. They are trying to expand their economic reach in Europe through London, while ignoring the fact that the logistics of having a team in London would not lead to competitive games. Money has been the driving force behind the NFL decisions and always has been. The idea of having a team in London is intriguing, but when you begin to think about the fact that once the novelty of an NFL team wears off from having an underperforming team it will no longer be a viable option. Why should London want to support players who have no ties to England or Europe at all? Players would be strangers to them, and there is no way London could produce its own NFL players because football is not a significant sport there.
The UK already has plenty of professional rugby teams that they are devoted to, and are familiar with, that supply them with their fair share of monstrous tackles and smashing bodies. So what would draw people to the NFL, other than the novelty of it? To me, the NFL discussing expanding to the UK seems to be intrusive and disrespectful to the already exciting and established sport of Rugby. Just because rugby is not one of the most popular sports in the US doesn’t mean that the NFL would be able to draw crowds from established rugby teams.
There are more pressing matters than simply making money, like the safety of employees. What the NFL should worry about more than expanding its sales reach is the safety of its players, especially concerning helmets and concussions. This is true now more than ever. But this is what should be expected from a business. They only care about maximizing profits and not the people who actually do all of the work.