The England experiment has been a success, so why not? American football was at one point as foreign to Brits as it now is to those in China or Brazil, and Germany and Mexico have strong football fanbases. At some point, the league will inevitably plateau in the United States, where there are only so many potential fans and advertisers. There’s a lot of money in all those international spots, and China and Brazil are two of the five most populated countries in the world.
Basketball, baseball and hockey continue to beat the NFL when it comes to international popularity. That’s not the NFL’s fault, but a league with as much power as that has to begin to spend money on major campaigns in order to take that next step toward becoming the most popular sports league in the world.
There’s no reason that can’t happen. Something that appeals to Americans has the capability of being just as appealing to those in China or Brazil or Australia or South Africa. It’ll just require a massive push. This is step one.
But it might surprise some to learn that the NFL has already played games outside of the United States, Canada, Mexico and England. Regular-season games in new destinations will be a first, but exhibition games have already been played in Japan (14 games between 1979 and 1995), Sweden (1988), Germany (four games between 1991 and 1994), Spain (1994) and Australia (1999). In fact, a preseason game was scheduled to take place in Beijing in 2007, but the matchup between the Seahawks and Patriots was rescheduled to 2009 and then eventually canceled altogether due to the recession.
About a decade later, the NFL is looking to get it right. And it could be dawn of a new era out east.