For NFL fans in London, supporting American football no longer results in ridicule. And the league has rewarded London with more and more games. But can it make the logistics work?
According to NFL UK, more than 30,000 players and coaches are involved with football in the country. It is the fastest-growing sport at British universities, and participation in youth flag football leagues has risen 90.6 percent from last fall.
It's cute that the NFL keeps bringing more regular season games to London. But this isn't simply as easy as adding an expansion team in Las Vegas. This is a whole separate country with its own rules and regulations. That's a lot of red tape to overcome. Here are 3 other reasons why the NFL in London probably won't work:
Being compensated in the U.K. is taxing (pun intended)
Some NFL players could be denied working visas
The NFL Players Association could veto any changes to work conditions
Nonsense! London is ready and if there's money to be made, the NFL will make it happen. The league routinely sells out Wembley Stadium, something many other sports cannot claim—and create a new way for the NFL to make money, by scheduling triple-headers on Sunday:
British interest in the NFL is legitimate. Sunday games in America kick off in London at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., making them watchable, unlike NBA games, which begin at 1 a.m. Five NFL games are aired live each week in London by the same network that airs the Premier League. And back in America, a London team would allow the NFL to sell yet another broadcast window. The NFL started last season to kick off the London games at 9:30 a.m.
It's great that people in London want to see NFL games, but who in the NFL would want to relocate to London to play football? Think of the physical toll eight games on the road would take on a professional athlete. Would significant others want to leave the country so their spouse can play overseas? Probably not. And that means the London team would be stocked with losers.
Well then, what happens when a London-based team is trying to attract free agents? Whether it’s an expansion team or the Jaguars (who are the likeliest team to relocate anyway) the situation will be perpetual losing for years. The only way to turn it around will be by attracting quality free agents and building through the draft. So, the question must be asked: Who would choose to play in London and deal with never-ending jet lag unless it was for a gigantic contract?
Let's not get carried away. It's not like the NFL would be sending players to the North Pole. London really isn't that bad of trip for players—and if selected for relocation, London would be the largest city in the league. How's that for a draw?
The concerns have become so overblown in recent years it’s useful to remember the context. We’re talking about eight games over the course of a 16 week season. The flight time from New York to London is about the same as the flight time from New York to Los Angeles, and players will be enjoying it all in fully stocked-out, private jets. What about the problems for teams not based on the East Coast? It’s not exactly rocket science: Do what the Rams did last week and fly straight from your previous game, which in their case was Detroit.
Yeah, but none of these concerns even touch upon the fact that adding a team in London could potentially give other teams a competitive advantage in the playoffs:
There would obviously be some significant logistical obstacles for both teams involved, as well as whoever is broadcasting the game, and the NFL is considering how to best sort through that from a competitive standpoint. Let's face it, every extra 12 hours off is a huge factor come the postseason, and the schedule needs to be as fair and balanced as possible.