This year marks the first season that there will be two NFL regular season games played at Wembley Stadium.
This was a big step forward for the popularity of the game in the UK, for the previous six seasons we have seen Wembley full to the capacity at the end of October as two NFL make the trip across the Atlantic to entertain their British fans.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed a contract that will see them travel over to London for the next four years. The Jaguars owner, Shahid Kahn, has just bought Premier League club Fulham and it begs the question whether we will see a London based NFL franchise sometime in the future.
It has to be said there is a huge appetite for a permanent team over here but there are also many issues that stand out when you think about basing a team abroad. I think it will be received well and Commissioner Roger Goodell seems very keen on the idea of relocating a current team.
The Jaguars stand out as the prime candidate to be moved because they are in a small market, they will never overtake Tampa Bay and Miami as Florida’s top team, they rarely sell out games and crucially they have an owner that has already got business interests in London.
St Louis and Jacksonville are the two franchises that have been talked about with regard to relocation, the NFL will have realise that they can’t have a team in London while there is no team in Los Angeles.
There are quite a few logistical issues with a London team for instance it’s a long way to travel for the away team, though it has been suggested by some that the travel is no different from a New York side playing a team on the West Coast of the US; maybe it wouldn’t be but there is still a bigger time difference and the psychology of that may affect the players involved quite badly.
It has been suggested that the London side play all of their eight home games to start the season before settling in the US for the remaining games of the campaign. I think it would be a tad unfair to make a team play all the crucial final weeks of the season away from home.
I would welcome a London franchise because it would be great to be able to watch an NFL team on a regular basis without the huge cost of travelling to the US, though many fans of the game in this country already have their favourite team so I think it would be tough to convert them to supporting a new team.
If the NFL can get the right formula for bringing a team here then I think it will be a great moment for NFL in the UK, the thought that something which started as an exhibition game in the 80s could turn into our own franchise is a testament to the amount of work go in to building the sport in this country.
It may be a few seasons off yet but it gets more likely year on year, it is indeed exciting times for NFL fans in the UK.
image: © jassen
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