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.”