London wants the NFL, but there are good reasons why the feeling may not be mutual

Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer (Best. Title. Ever.) George Osborne has promised to do “anything the government can do” to get an NFL team for London, which means of course that everybody is talking about when the NFL will put a team in London now. So, mission accomplished, mister chancellor of the exchequer!

The answer to “When will the NFL put a team in London?” meanwhile, is “Don’t hold your breath,” as Travis Waldron points out over at ThinkProgress:

Given existing concerns around moving a team to Europe, it is also possible — and probably more likely — that London has become the NFL’s next Los Angeles, a city used as a threat to hang over the heads of cities that it and its teams think need new stadiums…

There are myriad logistical issues standing as hurdles to such a move, including how to work bye weeks and address travel and competitive concerns. Where the team would play is also an unanswered question: while Wembley Stadium has made an attractive host thus far, it’s unclear whether a full NFL slate would fit into its schedule or its size, and it’s also less than certain that Premier League soccer club West Ham United would want to share the Olympic Stadium, a more suitably-sized venue that has been floated as a possibility.

But London is really huge, right? Wouldn’t any team jump at the chance to move there, assuming they got a stadium to play in and a vacuum train to get them there?

Possibly not, because of the strange finances of the NFL. Having high ticket demand is all well and good, but given that you only need to sell maybe 70,000 tickets eight times a year, a city the size of London is really overkill when it comes to creating enough ticket demand. Besides, in the NFL the real moneymaker is national TV revenue, and you can get a slice of that just by suiting up to have your heads bashed in. London, England, London, Ontario, London, Ohio — after factoring in TV money and revenue sharing, the amount of money you’ll make by operating a team there isn’t nearly as dramatically different as it would be in any other pro sport.

But wait a minute — wouldn’t putting a team in the UK be a terrific marketing opportunity for the NFL, and possibly lead to a lucrative new TV contract in Britain? Maybe so, but that’s for the NFL, not an individual team owner. If the league agreed to give a team relocating to London the lion’s share of UK TV money, perhaps, or otherwise compensated them for being the league’s European loss leader, then this might be able to work. But that would require complicated negotiations among all the teams to decide what’s fair, and even then you have to find an owner who’d rather be a guinea pig in London than to sit back in whatever U.S. burg they’re in and collect Fox checks. It could happen eventually, but probably not tomorrow.London as a bogeyman for NFL move threats, though? That’s a no-brainer. Besides, as I told Waldron:

“The great thing about move threats like this is that they can work both ways,” said Neil deMause, who follows stadium development news at his site, FieldofSchemes.com (and has co-written a book by the same name). “If talking up London as a potential NFL site works to get interest from an existing owner or an expansion owner, then great. Suddenly you’ve got interest, and a few years down the road, if it works out, then you can move ahead with it.

“If it doesn’t, then it’s still great, because you’ve talked about London so much that other teams can use it as a threat. It’s exactly how it’s worked with Los Angeles.”

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 FOXSports.com…

FOXSports.com 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.