With the second of three NFL games completed and news of deals in place to keep at least 2 games at Wembley until 2020, and games at the new Spurs stadium from 2018 the NFL is here to stay and stay for a very long time. With the international series ratified by NFL owners until 2025 the NFL’s end game in London intimidate springs to mind, that means talk of a London franchise is back.
Lets start with that which isn’t being said. Firstly can we call it a UK franchise or a British franchise, I drive down from Manchester and given the number of people I pass in Motorway services on the way back from games I’m not the only one. A “London” franchise immediately alienates people who make the journey down and many of the fans the league will probably want to target anyway. I’m not from London and I don’t want to be, nor do I want to perpetuate the international myth England exists purely within the bounds of the M25, its waaaay greener up north.
The second point, and what is probably the most important question is will a London franchise be able to sell out 8 home games? The NFL isn’t stupid, they are certainly aware of this risk, so its time to take the red pill. A UK franchise isn’t likely to have 8 home games a season. This may seem contrary to the fixture list but it’s not actually the point. The NFL’s international expansion isn’t going to end in London, and lets be frank, the NFL is planning way beyond 2025. This is a plan that encompasses the better part of half a century. A franchise turning up in the UK immediately makes it easier to play games in other European hot beds such as Germany and Denmark, maybe even test the Millennium stadium. The UK market used to having games played away from home, its familiar with the International series so its easier to put this straight upon a UK fan base. A UK based franchise almost certainly has one or two games played on Neutral territory imposed upon it straight away, and that frankly is pretty smart because that’s a saving of at least £200 on the likely most expensive home season ticket and improves its accessibility. Without reverting to stereo types picture this in 2030 – Britain vs Germany.
Lets look at the third point, the team. Unless you’re Donald Trump its very very difficult to be a multi-billionaire and stupid at the same time. The team coming over here is all but nailed on to be the Jaguars. If Jags owner Shahid Kahn announced today he was moving the team to London he would essentially turn the Jags into a Lame Duck franchise and support for the team in America would die immediately, given that there’s plenty more market testing and work to be done building the Jags brand only an idiot tip his hand at this point in the game. Winning this week against the Bills, on free to air UK TV will likely play no small part in the growth of their brand and that can’t be underestimated.
The stadium will almost certainly be at Spurs new stadium, to a certain degree this stadium is being built with the NFL first and Spurs second, with the grass pitch retractable over an artificial NFL surface and larger changing rooms as part of the facilities and the number of corporate boxes built into the stadium is more than satisfactory, its perfect for the NFL’s goals. The cheap seats in an NFL stadium are about £50, £15 more than at Wembley, the NFL will be perfectly happy selling fewer tickets to Loyal fans at a premium than try and rake in the UK TV rights and corporate boxes of a new stadium than worrying about filling 86,000 every week.
All of a sudden rather than selling 86,000 seats for 8 games a season we’re trying to sell 60,000 for 6 games. Lets look at it another way, 8 games of 86,000 tickets is 688,000 tickets for a season. With 6 games of 60,000 seats that’s only 360,000 tickets, sell those at a premium, with a 15%+ higher average ticket price. Doesn’t that cost the league, well yes but the international series in Denmark, Germany or elsewhere will mitigate that with more Merchandise and sales of tickets in the larger stadiums on the continent. The effect of this strategy isn’t disastrous but actually sustainable. 60,000 seats isn’t terrible in the NFL, the Raiders play in front of 53,000 and the Bears 61,000 so its small but not terrible. The price hike is inevitable, however.
What if I don’t want my money to go to Spurs? Well if you can’t get past it we’ve just proved that you aren’t necessarily required to make this work but either way, grow the fun up.
While we continue to dine on the Red Pill UK NFL fan’s are spoiled! We can’t expect the NFL to Roll out the red carpet for us fans before EVERY game. NFL UK should be applauded for the effort they put in before the games but fans shouldn’t expect to see this before every game. Things have already been scaled back for 2015 and I’d expect them to continue in that direction, we need to be weaned off these things. If you go to a Soccer(I know, I know) match, to be treated like NFL fans have is unheard of, plenty of what goes on will likely be dialed back though I hope the food and the culture remains. To replicate what they have over 6 or 8 games is a massive undertaking, and lets face it there’s only so many things they can do before it grows stale.
There are some reservations, while all the games have been sell-outs this year there have been empty seats, presumably from season ticket holders who don’t fancy individual fixtures. Apparently 84,000 of 86,000 tickets were filled but honestly I find that slightly hard to believe.
Logistical issues are slowly but surely being overcome and none of these issues are show stoppers, in fact the question of where to base a franchise ends when flights to other European nations are considered. The UK franchise will be UK based to support further expansion goals. The opportunities for preseason European games surface on the back of this approach which will help.
The rumors of a UK franchise are 2022 but I actually think this is closer than that, the NFL has a plan that doesn’t end in London, its a launch pad into Europe which the NFL will look to exploit. I’ll go straight out and say it, The Jags will be playing at the New Spurs Stadium full time in 2020. Also the Mythical Titans who I’m pretty sure are just Live Madden games are reformed in Mexico by 2025.