The talk of London getting a franchise at some point in the next 6 years seemed to be ratcheted up this year, specifically from the loudest voices connected to the game in the U.K. namely Mark Waller, Alistair Kirkwood and (if it was possible to be more pro-London franchise than usual) Neil Reynolds.
Kirkwood mentioned on Nat Coomb’s The NFL Show on TalkSport2 Tuesday night that he felt a franchise is a better end goal because at some point the concept of bringing over different teams will different match-ups might lose it’s current appeal or appointment attendance. The assumption is that if there was a London franchise ‘the sport would get much more popular…. because it has some national relevancy’.
We asked our writers for their say on whether they’re favourable to the idea of a London franchise.
Against it: Gareth Duxbury
I am opposed to the idea of a London franchise because I don’t personally want to co-opt an American sport. Part of the enjoyment is the very ‘Americanness’ of the sport itself. The whole ‘manifest destiny’ angle that pervades the American culture, reinforced by both adherence and dissention, is beautifully capture in football. That is what draws me, not that I can go down to Wembley and see a game between two jetlagged teams.
That said, the International Series has obviously been a huge boost to the game in the UK, raised awareness and nudged the game evermore to the mainstream. I’m all for that and have enjoyed my five visits to Wembley but I don’t feel like I’m seeing the real deal when I’m at Wembley, nor do I think I’m alone in that sentiment.
One point is that support for a London franchise does not necessarily follow from attendance at the International Series. Given most UK fans have a team, they aren’t going to switch mainly because the concept of switching teams is alien, antithetical even, to our sporting heritage and what is in our bones, beat-in deep since birth. Our support and allegiance is more tribal, territorial and many UK NFL fans carry that to their NFL team, they aren’t going to swap however bad their ‘real’ NFL team is.
I love this game, and I love that more people I know are starting to get in to it and I can converse with them and find an outlet for my passion. I don’t need a milquetoast version played out to increasingly sparse crowds with the 32nd or 33rd worst team in the league supposedly representing me.
Supports it: Liz Fox
I like the idea of an NFL franchise here in the UK for entirely selfish reasons. It’s something that brings me that step closer to my dream job of working for the marketing department in the NFL. That aside, do I think it would work? That is a difficult one to answer.
For me, coming to London for one game could end up costing anywhere upwards of £200; Train ticket, hotel, food and drink, game ticket. I currently cannot afford to come to all three games. There’s absolutely no chance I could go to a full season of games. A) I can’t afford it and B) I couldn’t get the time off work. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. I’d love to see it work, I really would.
Would I change my team in order to support the “home team”. No. My team is my team. However, I’d root for them at every opportunity and I guess they would be my second team but that’s where it would end. Unless of course they hire me in their marketing team, in which case, GO TEAM!!
Against it: Stuart Anderson
I am an NFL fan first and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan second. Would I like to see a London Franchise? Definitely not. Would I support a London Franchise? Definitely not.
My first experience of an NFL game was in Tampa 2012 and now couldn’t imagine changing ‘my team’ to a London Franchise just because it’s based in the UK. London feels as foreign to Scotland as Florida does so I would see no reason to have an affinity for a London franchise.
Although I have yet to attend an International Series game, I love watching these games on TV. I love the fact that their are six different teams coming to the UK to play these games (soon to be more possibly). I love the fact that NFL fans in the UK wear their teams colours to the these games regardless of who’s playing.
Would the UK NFL fan get behind a UK team? Initially yes, but what if they, well, suck? How long before interest begins to wane? The International Series still feels fresh. The International Series still feels relevant.
As the old adage goes; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Supports it: Kadeem Simmonds
I think a London franchise would be brilliant. While supporting the Miami Dolphins is fun and exciting, being able to support your team week in week out by attending games brings fans closer to their team.
Obviously it is unfair for those who live outside of London to have the team based in England’s capital but that is more accesible than the other side of the world and the large turnout for the International Series shows that supporters would hopefully back a team in the UK.
Sure, some fans will opt to continue supporting the team they already follow but a London franchise may bring new fans and heck, nothing wrong with supporting one team in the UK and another in the States.
The logistics would be tough to iron out and the Football Association may not want the NFL on a weekly basis at Wembley but more reason to build a purpose-built stadium and allow UK fans to create the atmosphere inside the stadium.
Seeing all 32 teams represented inside Wembley during the International Series is one thing but imagine fans donning the jersey of a London franchise, that would be something else.
Against it: Duncan Terry
As much as I love the NFL and going to see games in London, I am inclined to side with the US fan. I would hate to be in their situation. We are all very aware how much watching your favourite team can cost the average person buying a season ticket alone, to lose 1/8th of fixtures would never please you.
I also feel that perhaps the NFL is going to go too far in its push towards the UK. We are big fans of the sport, and so far have sold out fixtures, but again, it is expensive and the day out as a whole can cost even more. Fans come from all over the UK to watch and should the amount of fixtures expand further, I do not feel that they will all be shown the same amount of passion. Perhaps only attending one or two a year.
This brings me onto the long rumored London franchise, would it ever happen? I don’t know, but I see many roadblocks. For example, can the NFL expect the 49ers or Seahawks to make a 9000 mile round trip to London? So far a team playing in London has had their bye the following week, but bye’s only cover a small part of the season, what about week 1? Week 2? Week 17 before you are potentially traveling again in the playoffs?
As a Seahawks fan myself I would not be tempted to switch my allegiance to the “local” team. The commitment you feel when you are a fan of a side is much stronger than that, which is why when your team wins or loses it means so much to you. I dare say that most UK based fans of NFL teams feel the same way.
Supports it: Johnny Cumbleton
For me personally the idea of a London franchise is a no brainer. I refuse to believe that any NFL fan would decline to watch NFL football 8 times a year. One argument that has oft against been used against a London team is the fact that most U.K. fans already have a team. I don’t think this would matter as a most fans have a second team and would also get the opportunity to root for their first team should they ever play each other.
There are many logistical issues to be worked out, including tax and travel issues, but if the NFL is ever going to expand a US market that is rapidly nearing saturation then moving into another country is the best option. Whatever happens with Brexit London will remain the gateway to Europe. European NFL fans will visit the U.K. freely to watch a live game and, as the traveling Bengals support showed, many Americans will travel to the U.K. for a match and a taste of Europe.
The only negative that may come from an NFL team in London is an increased exposure to the sport and an inability to avoid scores until one’s able to watch the previous night’s game!
Against it: Jonno Payton
When the NFL first started playing meaningful games outside of the States in 2006 I was initially against it. When they came to the UK in 2007 I of course attended because I’m a hypocrite but my main concern was the integrity damage it did taking away a home team advantage for one team and removing an away team disadvantage for another by playing in a neutral venue. For a league that prides itself in parity I thought it felt a little odd.
I attended the first four games before I gave it up for a few years and returned for a game in 2014. Despite my reservations, especially as apart from the Chiefs it’s only ever been the less influential owners that give up home games (and not without coincidence the only home team to make the playoffs has been the Chiefs), I just love watching live American football too much. Nothing comes close to the live chess match being played out in front of you so I succumbed and started buying season tickets.
The obvious solution to this would be to move to 17 games with 16 games on the schedule, either international or American cities without a team,so that every team had one neutral game to play combined with their usual 8 home and 8 away. Being mindful of the 100% injury rate in the NFL I’d also like to see an extra bye week added.
However I do not want an NFL franchise. The league is American, keep it that way. The possible playoff logistics of flying from London to the West coast at a day’s notice still don’t work, too many issues regarding salary cap and tax, schedule etc. will have to be altered just to make it feasible. All 32 teams are supposed to be treated equally but that would be impossible if there was a London team. I’d rather see more people get interested in the grassroots British game and for that to become so successful that it could act as a feeder to the NFL. I also, despite all the bluster, don’t believe the fan base is big enough to support a bad team for years. Getting 65,000 viewers for an average live game on Sky Sports is still small potatoes folks.
Photo Copyright: Spurs TV