Since 2007, the NFL has had at least one game in England each and every season. Not only has this been great for growing the game’s popularity overseas, but it has also opened up the future possibility of having an NFL franchise in London. So, just how exactly would an American league include a team based in London, England? Unfortunately for the NFL, there are no easy answers – but we are going to look at some options.
Would the London franchise be an existing team, or an entirely new expansion team? It seems more likely that a current NFL franchise would relocate, as apposed to a brand new team being formed. Let’s review some of the more likely candidates:
The Jaguars have been the most consistent visitor to England over the league’s nine seasons there – because of this it does seem possible that the Jaguars could relocate. Also, owner Shahid Khan has connections with England. He owns Fulham Football Club.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers also have some ties to England and therefore have more than a little familiarity with the market. The Glazer family owns both the Buccaneers and Manchester United.
The Raiders are in need of relocating quickly, maybe even too quickly for London to be a viable option for Mark Davis and company.
The Bills are struggling in Buffalo, leaving the door open for a potential relocation sometime between 2019 and 2022, when their stadium lease has an exit window.
Several stadiums have been used throughout the NFL’s International Series in London, but it appears that Wembley Stadium would be the most likely choice for an NFL team. It’s not likely that a lease agreement with the stadium’s owners would cause any major hiccup. The 90,000 stadium capacity would leave more than enough room for large fan numbers.
A major problem with placing an NFL franchise in London is the travel. The team’s transatlantic travel, the staff’s transatlantic travel, the equipment’s transatlantic travel, etc… Enough is already made of a west coast team journeying to the east coast. With an even longer flight from London to anywhere in the USA, travel could be a real challenge for a London relocation. A possible solution to this issue would be playing home and away games in blocks of two or three games. This would allow for the London team to stay in the United States for a few weeks at a time, saving travel time and jet lag. The travel problem has not been fully solved by the NFL and is possibly one of the biggest roadblocks to establishing a permanent team in London.
It seems probable that the London team would have its games broadcast in the United States as well as the United Kingdom. Which major network would pay for the rights? Sky Sports. It is believed that both the network and the NFL would profit from the partnership. Whether the games would be broadcast in the United States in addition to the United Kingdom is still a very grey area – and likely won’t be decided until much closer to the potential relocation/expansion.
Now, these three issues (team, logistics, and broadcasting) are certainly not the only ones. Others such as training camp, preseason, visas, fans, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement all need to be ironed out before the process of putting an NFL team in London is pushed forward. Regardless of all of the issues, a potential team in London is an extremely exciting prospect.