NFL in “talks” to “possibly” bring team to London, say “sources”

Apparently it’s crazy unsourced rumor week in the sports press, because right after the Daily Mirror’s 75,000-seat David Beckham Miami soccer stadium report, Fox Sports jumped in with a claim that the NFL is seriously considering moving the Jacksonville Jaguars to London:

The NFL’€™s International Committee is involved in talks to bring a franchise, perhaps the Jacksonville Jaguars, to London, possibly as soon as 2017, sources told… has learned that the Olympic Stadium is being configured to work for different seating capacities for futbol and football. The retractable seating will enable greater attendance for soccer matches, while football will be significantly less.

So “sources” say there are “talks,” huh? Given that the whole purpose of the NFL International Committee is to have talks about such things, this is hardly surprising. But Is there any sign that these talks are actually close to putting a team (“perhaps the Jaguars”) in Wembley Stadium? (Scroll, scroll.) Nope.

Look, I’ve been one of the first to say that because of the NFL’s unique financial structure — every team in the league is rich from day one thanks to the national TV revenues that are shared among all 32 owners — you could put a team in Kuala Lumpur or on the moon and, so long as you had a lucrative enough stadium lease, make lots of money. And surely the NFL knows that a team in London would help get more lucrative American football TV contracts in the UK, which would help make those rich owners even richer.

But even for a sport that plays once a week, lugging two teams across the ocean, to a time zone offset by five hours from the U.S. east coast and eight hours from California, is hardly a trivial matter. And that “teams can play anywhere” cuts both ways: If you could get them to build a stadium, a team owner could just as easily put an NFL team in the other London and make money on the deal — it might not help the league’s international marketing as much, but that’s not an individual owner’s concern.

Getting the UK’s interest in American football up by alluding to them maybe getting a team, though, that’s the kind of thing that’s right up the NFL’s alley. And it certainly can’t hurt to have U.S. cities fearing that their team will leave for London if they’re unhappy at home. Enough talk like this, and maybe the league won’t need Los Angeles to kick around anymore.

Tottenham said to be considering NFL-ready stadium, according to legendarily unreliable newspaper

This was reported in the Daily Mail, the British tabloid that once won an award for “worst misrepresentation of a scientific article in a national newspaper,” so major grains of salt, but: The owners of the London-based Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly looking into building a new 65,000-seat stadium that would be able to be converted to football, thus giving them the ability to play host to a London NFL franchise.

The Mail reports — citing “sources” — that “it is understood that plans being drawn up for the Premier League outfit may include a sliding pitch to protect the playing surface for when it is used for NFL matches.” Which is pretty handwavy even for unattributed stadium plans, but given that we’re talking about an NFL team that so far exists only in the mind of London NFL boosters, it’s probably about as should be expected.

In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this awesome rendering of now-scrapped earlier plans for a Tottenham stadium, just because a building with “NAMING RIGHTS” stenciled on the roof is the perfect image for our sports era.

London NFL boosters gin up story about NFL coming to London

It’s quite the headline in today’s Telegraph — “NFL could see London expansion team playing at Wembley Stadium ‘by the end of the decade’” — and it immediately spawned lots of other news stories about the possible imminent arrival of American football in the UK. So who actually said what to set this whole thing off?

[Wembley managing director Roger] Maslin was confident the ground could stage an entire regular season of eight NFL games.

He said: “Football is our priority. But, yes, I’m absolutely confident that if [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell wanted to have franchise here then we could absolutely do it.”

Maslin also expressed his desire to bring the Super Bowl to Wembley, adding: “If they were bringing it anywhere in the world, we want it here.”

Okay, that’s all well and good — the stadium manager is talking up his stadium’s ability to host stuff, at a time when he’s concerned about corporate buyers not renewing their seat contracts because the stadium isn’t hosting enough stuff to make it worthwhile. But what’s with this “end of the decade” business?

The spectacular success of the NFL’s decision to allow matches to be played in London has led to calls for the city to host its own permanent franchise and [NFL UK managing director Alistair] Kirkwood told Telegraph Sport: “It’s possible that it could be done before the end of the decade.”

However, he warned that 24 of the 32 current NFL owners would have to agree any such move, adding: “I think the league should have aspirations to be global and having a London franchise would be a great step towards it, but it would have to be under certain conditions.”

One of those conditions would be “tripling” the UK fan base for American football, according to Kirkwood, who said a London franchise was not inevitable.

Okay, so what you actually have is the guy in charge of promoting the NFL in Britain saying the NFL could decide come to Britain, if people there would watch more American football. This is not so much “news” as “marketing.” I guess it’s at least nice to see that the States don’t have a monopoly on stenography journalism.