Will American Football Ever Work Overseas?

The NFL plays one regular season game in London every year.

The NFL plays one regular season game in London every year.

Nicholas Fuller

The NFL plays one regular season game in London every year.

Sunday, October 28th, the New England Patriots took field against the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Home of Manchester United, the stadium was sold out with 95,000 fans for the game, most of whom were British.  The fans seemed enthusiastic, and a positive atmosphere seemed to remain throughout the game even though it was a 45-7 win for the Patriots.  Yet, most of Europe rejects American Football as a silly and pointless game; similarly, many people in America reject soccer as boring and uninteresting.  Both groups of people seemed to be locked in their own views, stubborn to the possibility of the other sport perhaps being just as equally interesting and enjoyable.  So, why is the NFL is reaching out overseas to places like the UK?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems to think London offers plenty of opportunities for the sport, citing the possibility of having an NFL based team in London in the future.  Additionally, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “it is time to have an NFL team in London.” He believes this would benefit British fans of the game.  But are they right?  To many Brits, or basically everyone in the British population, the NFL is still irrelevent in comparision to soccer.  If you asked most people in London about the Americanized sport of football, they probably would not have a lot to tell you, since they were uninterested in the sport. As Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe cited, “An NFL franchise in London would be like a deep pass against the Patriots’ secondary—it wouldn’t turn many heads.”

Perhaps the underlying reason behind Goodell and Kraft wanting an NFL team based in London is not necessarily for the benefit of the sport, but for the numerous marketing chances London provides.  An NFL based team in London would rack up plenty of revenue for the NFL (not that they do not collect enough already) and would provide plenty of international focus for the league—something Goodell wants the NFL to receive.  But why bring a sport to a country that does not want it?  It most certainly would not benefit the players who had to play for a London franchise, as they would have to travel across seas for every away game, and it would “turn more heads” in America than it would in England. . .

Its good to expose another sport to other areas of the world, but it is not good to force it down the people’s throats.  Similar to America, where we have the MLS (Major League Soccer), perhaps Europe should create their own Football League in Britain if the sport gains more popularity.  The NFL should be encouraging this instead of adding an NFL based team in London, where a huge motive is just one of business opportunity.  Additionally, media-outlets in London could try and televise more NFL games in Britain, similar to NBC’s deal to have English Premier Soccer broadcasting rights from 2013-2016.  NBC sport’s deal makes it easier for American soccer fans to watch the biggest soccer games in the English Premier League, and something similar in England could do the same for British football fans.

The NFL plays one regular season game in London, England every year.  Next year, two regular season games are being played in London. The whole point and goal of having regular season games in London, according to the league, is to help the spread the NFL overseas and meet the increasing demand of a growing game; however, it is going to take a long time for American football to capture attention overseas in Europe where the population is largely uninterested, and elsewhere across the world.