The International Impact of the NFL

By Savannah Malnar

Soccer has always been a major sport in Europe but a different kind of football may invade that market soon enough. The NFL recently said that they are still on track with their plans to have an American football team placed in London, the capital of England, by 2022. With the upcoming Lions and Falcons game being played there this Sunday and the Cowboys and Jaguars playing there on November 9th, attention is again being drawn to the possibility of an international team.

This plan to expand the NFL internationally has been in the works since 2007, when they first started playing games overseas. NFL executive Mark Waller said in an interview with Reuters, “We’re at the midway point of that 15-year journey. I think we’re exactly on track.”

While the NFL seems exceedingly hopeful that they can relocate a team to London within the next 7 years, there are some drawbacks being highlighted by both American and English media.

The London Evening Standard projected the relationship of the NFL and the city to be very good. The Chancellor George Osborne is quoted saying that he believes bringing an NFL team to the city would “…cement London as a global sporting capital as well as a global financial and business and cultural capital.” Besides these benefits, some are concerned that the field in Wembley Stadium that is currently being used to host these games would not hold up well against the additional use; it is already used to host both soccer and rugby matches.

American media seems to be a little more hesitant about the possibility of relocation; many articles cite downsides including increased travel and time zone differences. There remains the possibility of, instead of stationing a team in London, playing roughly 8 games a year there. NFL teams selected would have to be okay with sacrificing a home game.

Despite these drawbacks, the games being in hosted in London have high attendance numbers and are gaining more popularity. The one concern I have is that if a team is relocated to London, it would not be a novelty anymore. Currently there are few games played there each season; if that became a normal event throughout the season, would the team still see the same attendance numbers of about 84,000 fans that they have?

Waller is convinced that American football is popular enough in the UK to thrive. We will see if this opinion stands true as the NFL attempts to grow its market throughout the next several seasons.