NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been pushing the NFL’s presence in Europe since he took office. Now it seems the push to land a permanent franchise across the pond is getting closer to reality.
NFL spokesman Mark Waller, in a report published by the BBC, says the NFL feels comfortable with the foundation in London to set up a permanent franchise.
“The fan base is big enough and passionate enough that it can support a franchise,” said Waller. “We are in a unique position as a sport because of the way our season is structured – we only play one game a week. It’s not something other American sports could do.”
The idea of placing a permanent franchise in London is nothing new, and the timeline for doing so has been discussed before. However, Waller’s comments are a shift toward making progress on fulfilling this goal. Previously, Waller would be silent when it came to determining a timeline for adding a team in the London market. Now, we have a definitive goal, set by someone in the NFL. Despite this latest development, there are still many items to check off before making any formal plans to bring the NFL to Europe on a permanent basis. There are many challenges that face any franchise making the move or setting up before making this happen, and the NFL knows that it will take a visionary to see this through to the end.
“It’s gonna take a visionary owner to say, ‘I’m willing to overcome all that,’ ” Waller said last October, per NFL.com. “But I actually think we’re ahead of schedule with the growth that’s happened.”
The NFL will look at the single-game attendance figures every time a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars flies over to play and tell you fans in London love the NFL product. Maybe they do, as a novelty once or twice a year. But bringing the full product across the ocean for a full regular season and asking it to compete head on with soccer is a beat the NFL may not be able to tame over the long haul. It may be a success early on, but eventually a time will come when the NFL decides the best course of action may to revive an NFL Europe model rather than assimilate a franchise in London into the current structure of the NFL, even if that means taking an existing franchise and moving it.
Expect plenty more discussion about this possible NFL in Europe initiative leading up to the Super Bowl.
UPDATE (11:22 a.m. ET): Well, it turns out the NFL is trying to silence that story.
NFL spokesman just emailed to say BBC report about an NFL team in London by 2022 is NOT true
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) January 20, 2016