The NFL makes its annual regular season trip to London, this time featuring the Glazer-owned Buccaneers in their second trip across the pond, against one of the league’s flagship franchises in the Chicago Bears. It’s the fifth straight season in which the NFL has played a regular season game in London.
If Roger Goodell has his way, there could be many more. The league’s goal is to start playing at least two games in London over the next several years, including featuring certain franchises and getting some of the more popular teams to come over. According to Goodell, getting some teams to become more regular visitors would “lead us to what we ultimately would like to do — have a franchise here in London.”
I’m not someone who necessarily hates change, but I think a London franchise is a non-starter. I don’t see how it would work with the rest of the league. Even setting aside building a brand and having a fanbase (London is large enough that a small percentage of NFL fans may be enough to support a team in the abstract) I think there are just way too many other issues.
London is 5,056 miles from Boston, and that is the closest distance from London to any major city with an NFL team. To put that in contrast, the distance from Miami to Seattle is less than 3,500 miles. San Diego traveled about 2,850 miles to New York for this week’s non-division game. It’s also 5 time zones earlier than any NFL franchise.
A team based in London would have to travel to the continental United States and probably have a “home base” somewhere on the East Coast where they would stay in between consecutive road games, similar to how East Coast teams like the Patriots did when they had consecutive Pacific time zone games a few years ago. Except this would be every road trip, not one time every four years or so. They would have to play 3 or more consecutive home and road games on a regular basis to avoid the constant back and forth of lengthy travel. How many free agents are going to want to sign on for that if they have the choice, not only living abroad for half a year, but also living in various places for half that time? A London team could not host a Sunday or Monday Night game, as the local kickoff time would be after midnight.
I know the NFL sees dollar signs and more fans, but I don’t see how an actual franchise playing 8 home and 8 away games from London is feasible at all. It seems like a grand scheme in theory but the execution will likely leave something to be desired.
[photo via Getty]