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Thursday, 27 October 2011

State of the Franchise

 "If you build it, he will come." Field of Dreams

Once the dust settled on the fifth instalment of the NFL International Series, I find myself dreaming of a time where I’m sat at Wembley cheering on the “London [insert appropriately ferocious animal here]” with fellow fans resplendent in the jerseys and colours of our players, our team, our franchise. A stark contrast to the sea of Viking Purple, Jet Green and Indy Blue at last Sunday’s game.

We all know that the NFL has committed its teams to the International Series until 2016, with talk of the UK hosting two regular season games. Clearly more football being played in the UK is a good thing, the NFL committing to more football being played in the UK is a good thing, but at this stage I think there is a mighty leap from International Series to UK franchise. The NFL’s most recent commitment is more akin to a testing of the waters, a dipping of the toe, rather than a whole hearted endorsement for a UK franchise.

As things currently stand this would appear to be the most prudent approach; whilst the crowd of over 75,000 at Wembley will represent one of the best attended NFL games this season, either side of the pond, there were still empty seats. I’m not overly convinced that the line being spun (shortened timetable as a result of the NFL lockout) is the root cause of tickets still being available right up to the game, and I would be wary of relying on this 'excuse' too heavily. An over-emphasis on the shortened timetable can back-fire; the message being that the UK needs a good few months in order to convince people to come to the game – not a great confidence boost. Add to this the fact that the Tampa Bay Cheerleaders and a squirrel occupy the most column inches in the UK press and NFL owners can be forgiven for wondering whether the International Series is merely a spectacle whose shine and gloss will fade over time.

Let us not forget that fans in the US are understandably miffed that they are already losing a home game to the International Series and are non-too thrilled about the prospect, as they see it, of the NFL being packaged up and exported. There are those who are also of the opinion that UK NFL fans would have no room in their hearts for a UK franchise, having already pledged their undying fealty to one of the 32 US teams.

In spite of the potential pitfalls, and the incredible amount of work that is needed to secure a UK franchise, I firmly believe that the next five years presents itself as a rare opportunity to the considerable NFL fan base in the UK. I love the NFL, love the Eagles, but if I was faced with a choice of sitting through and Eagles game, half-dead at 3a.m., or the opportunity to go and watch the “London Mosquitos” (top of the deadliest animal charts) live, beer in hand, I’m heading to Wembley. Were the NFL owners to find in the UK a real support base, real earning potential and the longevity of both, they would have all the incentive they needed to push through any of the innumerably daunting logistical tasks that accompany the creation of a UK franchise. Most importantly, if they build it I will come.  


  1. I for one would definitely go and support a London team if one was set up :)

  2. I'm sure that I'm not alone when I say, havin an NFL francise would be the best thing that has ever happened to me, second only to discovering the sport in the first place. However I just don't see it happening, with the US fan base already miffed by losin 1 of their regilar season games over seas, I could only imagine the uproar there would be if 16 teams each had to travel to the UK through their regular season!! In addition to this, If we got a francise, other countries would try to jump on the band-wagon i.e. Canada who as we all know already has a semi-pro/pro Football structure in place. With all of these franchises leaking out of the U.S. would it still be American Football?!

  3. This is a great blog!

    Interesting and punchy... I have to say there is a clear market for any marquee live sport in the UK, surely imperative for bringing a franchise here sits with a willing franchisee rather than the NFL if someone is applying pressure and willing to take the risk of a low uptake then we would be in business...



  4. Good to hear that our friends in the UK with such passion for the NFL. As an American fan, it's great to see other countries get behind a sport that is so niche and unique to our country. Soccer(forgive me as I'm merely a yank) is global and dominates the landscape on a global scale, yet has not seen the success over here as the other professional leagues.

    My personal belief as to the success of the other leagues and not soccer (again, forgive me) has more to do with the initial creation of the popularity in our hometowns.

    My concern would be that the same would happen in the UK or anywhere overseas as well. Is there a substantial fanbase? I can't answer that as well as any of you might be able to. We wouldn't know for certain unless a team were to permanently setup shop overseas.

    Logistically seems to be the biggest hurdle. As currently structured, teams that have played on the Prime Meridian have been afforded a bye week upon their return stateside. If they were to do this upon the creation of a new team, it would create a scheduling nightmare. Bye weeks would need to be scheduled for visitors yes, but the toll taken on the home team arriving from the East Coast of the US at 4-6AM nearly 4-5 times a year seems difficult to overcome.

    I personally don't have a problem with the annual match overseas, and am personally delighted to see the rabid support as seen in the Premiership. We truly won't have an answer until they build it...or if they'll come.

    Until then, Cheers to my friends in the UK.

  5. Apologies for the poor grammar on the above post. I'm still at work and had to get something up quickly...

  6. great blog with valuable information. Thanks for it.

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