Why there will never ever be an NFL franchise in London
You have to love the NFL politicians when they speak before the Wembley game. Roger Goodell and Alastair Kirkwood, all talking about the potential for an NFL franchise in London within the next few years. And of course the British tabloid press, in their twice-a-year for 24 hour interest in the NFL, just lapped it up.
There was only one problem with the idea - it's total bollocks.
Maybe back in the 1980s or even more recently than that, the thought of a regular season game being played in Europe was mere fantasy but that came true. So could the immediate scorn placed upon the London NFL franchise be the same? No and any one of four reasons can shoot down the idea on the spot.
1 - Location and time difference
The simple and most obvious reason. Right now for London games, the two teams travel over on the Thursday night/Friday morning, do a brief walk-through practice, play the game and then fly home with a bye week to follow to allow them to recover.
So do you offer every team that has to play London a bye week after their trip? And that is just East Coast teams who have the eight-hour flight. What about when San Diego, Seattle or Oakland have to come over? And of course London would have eight road trips in the regular season alone. How do they manage the jet lag and travel problems?
Quite simply, until Concorde II is even invented, the travel logistics make a London franchise a total non-starter.
2 - The British fan base
So if Wembley sells out in hours for each International Series game, why would a London team not do the same?
Because the October game is a one-off, a special event that people travel to all over the country from. They will spent vast sums on travel, accommodation and tickets because it is a one-off. There is no way your average fan from 100 miles away does the same more than once a year.
So the fan base for a Wembley team would have to be around 30-40 miles around London and even that is generous knowing how bad the access is to the stadium itself. And British fans will not give up their current allegiance to follow a new franchise. The only reason they would go, would be to see their own team PLAY the London one.
Ask yourself this British Buc fans - would you stop following the Buccaneers to switch your interest to a new team in London just because it was in London?
3 - Stocking the roster with players
So let's say you have invented a fast new plane and have convinved 80,000 mugs to shell out huge amounts for season tickets for the new franchise. Now you need players.
There are two ways of stocking an NFL roster, free agency and the draft. Just how do you convince a player to move to pretty much the other side of the world to ply his trade for a new team. To uproot his family, to move away from friends and other interests.
Or the draft - how long would the NFL draft last under legal threat from a player being selected and told he has to move to England to play. From the initial forays done by a legal friend of mine in the States, this could shoot down the entire NFL draft faster than anything.
4 - NFL expansion at all
So you have a franchise with no fans and no players and no conceivable way to play their games. So why bother at all?
The NFL already has a couple of weak franchises and also the No.2 TV market in the country without a team at all. It has an ideal number of teams already playing a pretty-much perfect schedule and the interest in the game has never been higher. So why would you go to London at all?
The International Series games work well to promote the game outside of America and long may they continue. But not just in London but in Germany, Scandanavia, Japan and Mexico. The narrow-minded morons on the NFLUK forum who think that games should only be in London are typical of the self-serving British fans who do much to detract from the great sport.
The NFL is a massively successful league which is loved around the world. It brings in huge revenues, massive TV audiences and will continue to do so in the future. But just not with a team based outside of the United States. Not now, not ever.
Paul Stewart, TBO.com, November 2009