By Christian S. Kohl
With the NFL continuing its trend in recent years of featuring games in London, the question comes up time and again whether or not a team will move there permanently. The thirst for additional wealth among the NFL owners simply cannot be slaked, and therefore those in charge of such decisions will likely push hard to move a team there if it results in even $1 more net per year. The question is, should an NFL team move to London? Would it be good for the game?
Let’s attack this problem with a Pros and Cons list. Points in favor include spreading the sport to a new continent which may or may not want it, possibly increased revenue, and possibly increased revenue. The Cons represent more or less every other point a rational human being could raise. First of all, what makes London better than Borneo, or Siberia? This fixation on one European city seems entirely arbitrary. The upside of course, is if the sport does become wildly popular, Americans can now snicker that the English can no longer immediately understand what is meant when the term “football” is uttered.
Most NFL teams are wildly profitable. The ones that are not can be relocated to many different places in the United States and instantly turn an enormous profit. Why the NFL is so fixated on Jacksonville as an area desperate for football is as mysterious as the NHL’s assertion hockey no longer belonged in Canada or the Northeast, as its true roots lay in the hockey-wild desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Some NFL teams are located in areas that don’t turn profits or draw crowds to the tune owners would like. Several billion just isn’t quite as good as many billion. I understand. However, moving a team to London is nothing shy of a logistical nightmare.
This is not baseball in Toronto. This is something else entirely. Football games are played customarily just seven days apart, and sometimes as infrequently as four. Sending planes back and forth from Europe constantly will exhaust players. The London team will struggle to attract free agents or players willing to live that far away. More to the point, nobody even seems particularly sold that a team in London would draw well to begin with.
It seems with ideas like this, or the eighteen game schedule, the owners and Goodell are more intrigued by exactly what they can get away with as opposed to what is good for their game. They seem entirely disinterested in the notion of adding expansion teams, so next year’s London teams would almost certainly be one of this year’s floundering USA teams. If the NFL were comprised of thousands of teams and they simply ran out of major US cities capable of supporting teams, this idea would make far more sense. As it stands now, the few games played there each season represent a major nuisance for NFL personnel and all but ruins their week. As near as I can tell, that’s the most appealing part of the entire idea for the owners. If an NFL team can thrive in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I remain entirely certain there are many spots left in the lower 48 that would be glad to come to an NFL stadium in droves.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.