LONDON (FootballStL) -- After a week in London, I have been converted. There will never be a professional football team in London during the next 10-20 years. I won’t say forever because, as Prince once said, forever is a mighty long time, but it will be decades before American Football makes its way here to London.
I used to really think that London was a real threat for an NFL franchise and possibly stealing the Rams. Now I think that it is nothing more than a jumping off point into Europe and not a real sustainable idea.
Tonight at Wembley was a terrific atmosphere. The crowd was large and the NFL presentation was awesome. But, that game tonight was as far away from a regular season NFL game as any there can possibly be. It was a mini-Super Bowl type presentation. Which is awesome, but that was not the reality of what a regular season NFL game is. Most regular season games don’t have a Train concert and two stars of music singing the national anthems. Nor do they have one of the best teams on the planet, with the top star in the league. This wasn’t 16 weeks of the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was a one shot deal, and as one shot deals go this was great. But, it is not reality.
The NFL desperately wants to grow their fan base and doing games like this is a great way to do it. Next year the NFL is holding two games here in London and it is clearly a test to see how far they can go with this idea. But, ultimately that test will only bring about another test and we are still looking at the ball being kicked down the road on this idea.
After seeing it first hand, the main problem that I see with the football in London idea is that it is just not in their blood here in London. There is a small passionate group of fans living over here, but their sons don’t play football in high school. They don’t have college football on Saturdays with hundreds of thousands of people attending around the country and they certainly don’t have a “home team” they live and die with every week during the fall. This comes from a century of playing the sport. Over here it is barely in its infancy and until their children fall in love with the game, it will never survive on a permanent basis.
You can forget about the logistics and the competitive balance arguments against coming over here, because those can be solved. There are enough football players who would do anything to be in the NFL and would do anything to be paid. If there were teams here they would figure it out. Also the time change issues could be solved. It certainly didn’t hurt the Patriots tonight flying in on Friday morning. So those aren’t the real issues. The real issue is can enough fans support a team on a full-time basis? I believe the answer is still no.
I heard a very interesting theory in the press box this evening from a London reporter that I think has some validity. The NFL wants to get into the European market, no question, but this reporter believes that the push for more in London is actually to push the Los Angeles market to get their act together and get a team back in Los Angeles.
The more I think about that there may be some truth to that. Los Angeles knows that the moment they build a stadium they will have a team. You also have to figure at some point the economy will turn around out there and they will get it done. But, the NFL continues to grow impatient with the L.A. groups. Anything to push that project forward would be welcomed by the league.
They NFL also likes having another threat so franchises like the Rams will have leverage when talking about new stadiums. So maybe there is validity to having more irons in the fire and keeping London in the mix.
Maybe there is a full time market for NFL games over here in London? It would certainly add to the television package to have a 9 AM Central time game from London every other Sunday morning. But, I think we are still decades away from that too. It is fun for one night, but is there a future? The NFL will keep sticking their toe in the water, but this is not a real worry to NFL fans who are worried about where their teams might move. This is nothing more than an experiment and an opportunity to hopefully make more money in Europe. A football team in London is not near happening anytime soon.