Nick Fink (92.3 The Fan)- NFL expansion is always a hot button topic whether it involves stadium issues, poor fan support, or even the magical promise of Los Angeles. So as rumors begin to swirl that a NFL franchise could be relocated to London I wonder to myself is this a wise decision? The NFL is the only professional sport played in the U.S. that does not have a foreign franchise. The question becomes should America just give away our most valuable domestic good? The answer is yes, but only on one condition.
My condition is simple and seemingly fair, it will not cost England money, or cause international intrigue, I simply want to trade franchises. England has arguably the most prestigious and profitable soccer(football) leagues in the world. The British Premier league is the European equivalent to the NFL. It has rabid and historic fan bases, rivalries that pit cities against each other, and clubs that basically print money. During the 2011-2012 season the Premier League profited a little over 900 million pounds which comes to 1.4 billion American dollars. That same year the NFL posted a profit of 9.5 billion, if you place a NFL franchise in London and expose it to about 60 million people imagine the money. The U.S. population is roughly five times larger than that of England’s. An organization that made 1.4 billion with relatively little American exposure could boom when the masses have a chance to learn the game.
The U.S. soccer revolution is growing, Americans become more involved in European soccer every day. There are many reasons for this; the Internet and TV have played major roles, European clubs have made it a point to play more Friendlies in the States, and most importantly Generation X. Generation Xers such as myself grew up playing soccer along with other sports, our parents were the first group of true soccer moms and dads. We relate to soccer because we don’t see it as foreign, we see it as a game we all played. My generation is just starting to earn money and we aren’t spending it on baseball. Something is going to emerge to take its place and my bet is on soccer.
Outside of popularity and money the key issue to making either of these franchises viable in foreign lands is logistics. How will travel work? Which city in the U.S. get’s the Premiere League team? Will Free Agents go and play overseas? I have thought long and hard and I believe I have found some solutions.
In regards to the NFL I have seen plans such as playing their seasons in halves (8 here, 8 there) or playing them in quarters (4 here, 4 there, 4 here…). In terms of soccer it would be similar, teams would come and play a game against the U.S. team and maybe play a game against the U.S.’s next opponent in America. A team would be here for about two weeks, it’s no different from when players go on international duty.
The biggest issue is the location of the EPL franchise, obviously they would like for it to be based out of NYC. That won’t work. New York will claim the team as their own and the country will grow to resent it. My proposal is for the American team to play in various cities (Seattle, St. Louis, New York…) and base the team out of Houston which is not only a good soccer town, but it is centrally located. By playing games in various city you don’t have to rely on one city keeping it alive. It becomes America’s team, every game would be treated like a major event which will keep the excitement alive.
Much has been said recently about NFL players not wanting to play overseas, I find this hysterical. Players tend to go where the money is. London is one of the largest cities in the world filled with clubs, parties, and celebrities. If Green Bay, Kansas City, and Carolina can attract free agents, then being the face of football in Europe can sell London. I believe the NFL would have to make a cap exemption for a European team so they can negotiate more money to help sign players. In terms of soccer, there is plenty of international talent playing in England. Playing in America would give them great exposure and would not be a tough transition. A U.S. team would also need a 3-5 year relegation exemption as it establishes a team.
All in all my plan is a pipe dream. I find it hard to believe England would be willing to give up a franchise. The NFL to London is not set in stone, but it seems like we are headed in that direction. An NFL for EPL trade gives both countries a win and helps develops each others national pastimes in a foreign land. Just imagine a weekend in February when the American Rebels play Manchester United on a Saturday and The London Jaguars play the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
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