The NFL returned for the second time this season to London’s Wembley Stadium yesterday and judging by the headlines and breathless sport and government commentary, it was more than second coming of football in one season, it had all the trappings of THE second coming (so if that’s true, everyone just look very busy OK?).
The headlines this week in the run-up were comical as Chancellor George Osborne stopped short of guaranteeing a permanent NFL home team in London. In the run-up to our May UK General Election, he will do anything to avoid the economic realities of nearly five years of Tory financial policy.
On BBC Radio 5 their commentator proclaimed it “a done deal that the NFL would locate a franchise in London” because next year there will be three games in London, nearly half a season and NE Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants to locate a team here.
Whoooooaaaa. Everybody pump the breaks just a wee bit.
The big talk in the NFL is a new stadium and relocation of franchises to Los Angeles. By all estimations that will happen first.
The best explanation for what is really happening with the NFL in London was made by syndicated radio host Dan Patrick of DirectTV’s and NBC Sports Network’s The Dan Patrick Show on Friday. The NFL wants to make money. They just sold their Thursday night package to CBS and the NFL network for about $275 million dollars (£165 million pounds).
A similar early start ‘Breakfast at Wembley’ series could bring in another $200 million dollars into the NFL. It would mean the NFL would OWN Sunday with eight quadruple header games. Beginning with the 1:30 GMT London start at breakfast time (8:30 am) on the east coast, that is followed by a full slate of ‘normal’ 1 pm and 4 pm games and capped off with NBC’s Sunday Bight Football Night in America at 8 pm. Aside from two 90-minute breaks for lunch and dinner, that translates into a highly profitable 15+ hours of football and advertising every Sunday.
Relocating a team to London puts that team at a permanent time travel disadvantage. Every road game requires an 8-11 hour flight crossing 5-8 time zones. If you are struggling on the pitch, that kind of travel makes a tough season even tougher.
The NFL cannot schedule/broadcast on Friday (US high school football – remember the show Friday Night Lights?) or Saturday (NCAA College football) without its not for profit status and antitrust exemption being placed at serious risk. Otherwise the schedulers could easily put up to 9 days between games which would solve a number of problems.
As this article goes to press the Atlanta Faaal-cons (that is the correct pronounciation) are destroying the Detroit Lions 21-0 at the half. My alma mater Boston College is well and truly represented by Atlanta quarterback ‘Matty Ice’ (Matt Ryan to the rest of us).
Enjoy the games Londoners.
Enjoy the normal start so if you travel from Wales or Scotland it’s a long day trip vs. the added expense of overnight stays in London.
And everybody else? Let’s just take it down a notch on the hyperbole machine.
A lot has to happen before London becomes a permanent stop on the NFL schedule, if ever. This is said by someone who has lived in the UK for 11 years and endured NFL Europe. That there are more games coming should be excitement enough. As for a franchise in London? I’ll believe it when I see it.
In the meantime, enjoy the second half.
(And what second half it was Lions come back to win 22-21!)