I sat next to a chap from Brazil during the game and he said there were rumours of a game being played over there perhaps as early as next year, although he reckoned it would more likely be in 2 or 3 years time.In the days leading up to the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I got to spend time with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell... Goodell explained to me that representatives from three new markets were in London to see how things were done with the view to the NFL exploring new venues for games, "as soon as next year."
Madrid in Spain and both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil have reportedly been investigated as potential venues for a regular season game in the coming years. That, to me, is a very exciting development and it feels like the success of London and Germany has accelerated proceedings beyond what was previously expected.
The NFL moved fast in Germany, hopping from one game to two in the space of one year and there is a very real possibility of the league resembling a Formula One-style calendar in the not-too-distant future. London, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and who knows where after that? Dublin, Paris, Rome?
The reason for such ambition is because of the foundations that have been very firmly laid in London. The continued success, year after year, of regular season games in the UK emboldened the league to venture to Germany in 2022. And in 2023 a total of 1.5 million fans registered to buy tickets for the games in the UK and Germany. So, the continued interest in and success of those two markets now takes us to this point… further expansion of regular season games being played around the globe.
And we should not be worried on these shores by the playing of more games elsewhere. Commissioner Goodell was keen to point out that the UK will have their games (two at Tottenham and a Jags game at Wembley), as will Germany. But they are determined to become even more of a global entity and that puts Spain and Brazil in the crosshairs.
While the continued playing of regular season games featuring multiple teams is one course of action, the London franchise discussion was also had over the weekend. The Commissioner talked through one particular hypothetical that featured two London teams and even a Super Bowl in the UK, while Jaguars owner Shad Khan stressed that he would be open to continuing the back-to-back playing of regular season games for his team in the capital.
Whether it be a London franchise, a European division (an idea the Commissioner acknowledged in 2022 and one which was raised again last night by Peter King) or the playing of games in multiple countries around the world; there is no denying the fact that we are living through historic times in the NFL.
Full article: https://www.nfl.com/news/neil-reynolds-wraps-week
I still think a London franchise (let along two!) is a daft idea. Fair play to the Jaguars for growing their fan base in the UK by coming over every year for the past decade, but most UK fans continue to support other teams. We're a very tribal bunch; once we pick a team we follow them for life and won't switch allegiance just because a new team sets up in our home town/city. When the Jaguars first came over I saw a grand total of 3 fans in Jags jerseys at the game. Now there are thousands. That's because new fans have chosen to follow them, which makes sense knowing they're going to get to see them play every year. They haven't converted any long-term NFL fans though.
Two things stood out this year. Before the Wembley game, in the 'Jungle' area outside the stadium set aside for fans, there was a DJ. At one point he asked fans from London to cheer and got a very quiet response. He then asked fans from outside London to cheer and got a much louder response. Finally he asked Jaguars fans to cheer and got a similar response. In other words the majority of both NFL and Jaguars fans who attend games do not live in London. They travel, often from quite far away, to see a game. I chatted with a couple on the Tube on the way to the game and they'd come all the way from Wales to attend their first ever game, a journey of about 150 miles. A fellow Bears fan who I often bump into at games travels 200 miles from Devon and spends the weekend in London. They are unlikely to be able to, couldn't afford to (especially given the massive price hikes in recent years) or just wouldn't be interested enough to do that for 8 regular season games to support a franchise. I don't think the NFL really understands this. Pre-game activities have become increasingly London-centric in recent years. There used to be tons happening on game-day to entertain fans before the stadium opened whereas now there are events spread across the week which only London-based fans can attend.
Which brings me to the second thing that stood out. Despite the Jaguars playing back-to-back games in London this year, a first for a team, there were nowhere near as many Jags fans at Tottenham for the second game against the Bills as I'd assumed there would be. Now Tottenham Stadium holds around 24, 000 fewer fans than Wembley and tickets are consequently more difficult to get hold of, but I was expecting the Jags to be much better represented than they were. I thought a lot of Jaguars fans who went to the Wembley game would be at Tottenham too, but instead the Bills supporters vastly outnumbered them. There didn't seem to be that many more Jaguars fans than those of lots of other teams. This made me wonder whether the majority of their supporters are really just interested in the novelty of going to one game a year.
I still believe the best strategy for the NFL is to make the 17th game into a neutral venue game for all 32 teams, which would allow them to play 16 games overseas each year and try out different locations. US fans would get their full slate of 8 home games a season, international fans all over the world would get an opportunity to enjoy the experience of an NFL game and the NFL would grow its fanbase. If a location doesn't attract sufficient interest then the NFL can simply try a new location the following year.
One final observation, last Saturday I went to the NFL Experience at Battersea Power Station (Pink Floyd fans on this board will know it - it's the building on the cover of the Animals album with the pig flying over it) and saw Reynolds interview Goodell. You'll be pleased to know that Goodell still gets booed by UK fans, a tradition started by Patriots fans following Brady's suspension over the 'deflate-gate' incident.