With the NFL recently kicking off their International Series of six American football matches in London on 4 October with the New York Jets defeating the Miami Dolphins 27-14, there is a lot of buzz of whether the NFL will permanently stay in London. The NFL even hosted a huge tailgate party of 40,000 spectators on 3 October at Trafalgar Square in London to get fans excited about the first international game. The event featured appearances from both Jets and Dolphins players and even had former players such as Dan Marino make appearances at the big rally. Does the huge tailgate party mean that the NFL is ready to commit to an overseas team? Not quite.
Even though the NFL has been involved with overseas games in the UK for a while, and have even entertained the idea of having a permanent team there; they have not made any big moves to show if they are really serious about developing an international team. The head of NFL UK, Alistair Kirkwood, even states that the sport has “great momentum,” but he does see a London team in this decade. That means the head of the NFL UK doesn’t even think there will be a possibility of a London team for at least four years, not even entertaining the idea until 2020.
There are many reasons why Kirkwood is correct in assumptions for a delay for a NFL London team. There are many obstacles London and the NFL would face trying to implement a permanent team. One major problem being no guarantee that current and future players would want to move to a foreign country. There is a high possibility that a British-based franchise would need a higher salary cap for already highly-paid players in order to persuade them to leave America to play in a foreign country and in a place that they would be taxed twice on their income, once in America and once in Britain. Double taxation is not a great persuading point for gaining players. The market for a full NFL team in the UK is also new and undefined, leaving a mystery of how well the team would do and how well they would gain popularity. Which again, is another turn-off for players.
In addition, there would be legal issues and immigration requirements for convicted players, which is not as uncommon as you would think, and certain health guidelines. There seems to be a lot of obstacles in the way of the NFL actually developing a full-time team in London, but it is still feasible. For instance, there is a market for the NFL in the UK, with all three American football matches in London being sold-out. There are fans for the sport and it would actually open up more markets as it is more timezone friendly in Asia, than other games that kickoff at normal U.S. times. Games being played in British Standard Time would make the matches more viewable to millions of more customers and would bring an endless stream of new potential customers. Finally, BBC2’s attention on the sport is another big aid. BBC2 televised the 4 October NFL game, and with BBC2’s backup, the NFL has a great platform for future growth.
So is the NFL ready to call London it’s newest home? At this moment in time, it doesn’t seem so. But there are many things moving the NFL towards that proposition and could possibly be a reality in the near future. Not in this decade, but maybe the NFL will call London it’s newest home in the 2020s!