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London Franchise? No thanks

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Like all the other British NFL fans, I have thoroughly enjoyed the introduction of the annual International Series game at Wembley stadium and I myself have been lucky enough to have attended three of the games. Each year the stadium is (almost) full and the crowd are down in London hours before kick off, taking in the atmosphere of the entire day and the whole operation has proved to be a success in taping into the undoubted fan base within the UK and Europe with fans travelling from across the continent to the English capital.

On the face of it, it all sounds like the perfect build up to the much talked about arrival of a full time NFL franchise being based over here, most likely in London. However, I am firmly of the opinion that any such move would NOT be a success and I know I am not alone amongst British based fans of the sport in this belief. Here are just a few of my thoughts as to why I wouldn’t move a team over to London.

•    Travelling and Scheduling

One of the more obvious stumbling blocks the league would have to overcome is how they would compensate for a team having to play 8 games in the UK and 8 in the U.S. as well as the 8 teams having to play away in the UK. At the moment, the two teams who compete in the International Series game have their bye week immediately after. It would be impossible to leave the schedule in it’s current format with a team based in London but there would probably be a way round the problem, maybe changing the bye week system and having the UK team play a few away games and a few home games in a row to prevent constant back and forth travel. Having the team play say three or four games in a row away from home would leave UK fans on the sidelines however meaning that idea would probably be unusable.

•    The Novelty Team

The weekend of the International Series still has a novelty factor to it, both to people in the UK and the U.S. and I would expect a permanent to team to have that as a permanent issue. Taking a team out of the U.S. would basically alienate them from the rest of the league and basically make them outcasts with American fans having little to no interest in what happens to them. I would think this would be an issue when trying to sign players and draft picks also with players having to relocate to another country and be removed from the rest of the NFL. With the team being plucked out of the air and placed down in London, having no history in the UK and

•    Cultural Differences

American football (it would never be called simply football) is still viewed as a nothing sport by many in the UK with people offering the same reasons such as the stop start nature of the games and the amount of padding worn compared to rugby players. I always look to defend the game when confronted with these arguments but it just goes to show how different the game is to any other major sport in the UK. American football really is perfectly American in every way and it is that American style that attracts so many of us to the sport, but it also turns many others away. Trying to anglofy it would simply make it a side show from the real thing and would only serve to make the team further removed from the rest of the league.

The fact that the NFL season takes place between from September to the Super Bowl in February, it would have to compete with sports that have long been established as national sports within the UK, football and rugby. There is pretty much 0% chance that an NFL team placed in London would prise football and rugby fans away from attending their teams games in favour of watching an American football team they have no long standing emotional attachment with.

•    Fan Base

Whilst the level of fan interest around the International Series games has been strong each year but that interest has seemingly dropped since the first game between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins in 2007. There were large areas of Wembley with seating covered over at last year’s game (as seen in the picture taken by myself before the game) and I fear this would be a regular sight with more and more seats becoming redundant should a team become based at the stadium.

Wembley stadium before the 2011 International Series between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears with covers over unused seats

Clearly there are thousands of NFL fans within the UK and Europe with the fan base continuing to grow but the vast majority of those fans already have their own teams that they support and would be unlikely to change their allegiance just because a team has popped up in Europe. It would also be expecting a lot of fans to make regular trips to London for the games. A day trip to London to watch the International Series is both expensive and time consuming for fans from the Midlands and the North of the UK, not forgetting those who come over from Germany, Sweden, etc. Most likely you’d have people making one off trips to games, picking a weekend when they are free to do so and whilst this combined with the ‘newness’ of the entire concept may keep the attendances relatively high initially, after a couple of years, the ‘take it or leave it’ fans will have lost interest and those who have their own teams would likely go to the game should their team be playing and not support the London side.

Football teams and rugby teams in the UK have built up their fan bases over a long history and fans pick up their teams for various reasons at a young age and stick with them through thick and thin, most of the time thin. Should a London team prove to be unsuccessful early on, you can guarantee plenty of people would lose interest as they have no emotional ties to team and why bother forking out three figure sums to go and watch them play. Whilst on paper it may seem like a great idea, all European NFL fans rallying behind and supporting a team based in London, it wouldn’t be the case. Why would an NFL fan who lives in Hull, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool or Manchester for example, feel any passion for team based miles away in London when they have their own local football, rugby, cricket teams to support? It’s not like they would have any connection with the team other than the fact it is being played a couple of hundred miles down the road. It takes time to develop a relationship between teams and fans and before that can be established at a sustainable level, the bubble of interest surrounding the new attraction at Wembley may well have burst.

 
As you can clearly gather, I don’t see the reason for taking an NFL franchise away from the U.S. and bringing it over here. The International Series is fantastic and we will continue to enjoy that and the amount of coverage of we receive now is great but I really do think it would one step too far to try this. Obviously this is all just opinion and conjecture and should a team be moved into Wembley, the exact opposite could happen and you could see me writing a new article a few years down the line singing the praises of the London team after winning their first Super Bowl and saying how I always believed in them and how it could work. Who knows.

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January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Crewe Railroaders will join the British American Football League this year
with the BAFL culminating each year with the BritBowl which was won last
year by the London Blitz at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

The current stadium at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre is on the same ground
as the old football ground that hosted FA Cup Finals between 1895 and 1914
with Burnley the last team to win the cup at the venue, beating Liverpool in
the final in 1914.

In Burnley’s history, they have only once made it to the European Cup (now
Champions League) when they lost in the quarter finals in the 1960-1961
season to Hamburg

Hamburg’s last European game against an English team was in the 2009-2010
Europa League semi final where they lost to Fulham having beat Standard
Liege, Anderlecht and Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in the knockout rounds.

Eindhoven had hosted the 2008 European Aquatics Championships a year
earlier where Tom Daley became the youngest ever European Champion in
the diving events a few months before he competed for Great Britain at the
2008 Olympics in Beijing at 14 years old.

Another athlete to make a big impression in the Olympics at 14 year old
was Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci [ko-mo-neech] who won three
gold medals at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal as well as becoming the first
gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 score in an Olympic gymnastics event.

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January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Nantwich Town sold Ben Mills to Macclesfield Town this week

Macclesfield drew 2-2 with Premier League Bolton in the FA Cup on Saturday

Although currently injured, American midfielder Stuart Holden is a key player for
Bolton Wanderers having joined the club from MLS side Houston Dynamo.

The Dynamo’s are one of Houston’s professional sports teams with the city
boasting a team in every major American sports league apart from the NHL including
NBA side the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets’ next game is on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning at the Charlotte
Bobcats.

The Bobcats share a nickname with BAFA Division 2 the Bournemouth Bobcats,
the same league that the Crewe Railroaders will join this year.

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December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Haroon Khan who won silver at 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi for Pakistan, is
the cousin of Lancashire and England cricketer Sajid Mahmood

Mahmood made his test debut for England against Sri Lanka in 2006, getting Kumar
Sangakarra as his first test wicket

Sangakarra spent the 2007 cricket season with English county Wawrickshire as an
overseas player and another former overseas player for Wawrickshire was West
Indies legend Brian Lara who is one of three cricketers to have won the BBC
Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award

As of 2010, only boxing legend Muhammad Ali and 6 time Wimbledon champion
Roger Federer are the only two to have won the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of
the Year award 3 times

Federer won his first ever grand slam title at Wimbledon in July 2003, the same year
that Wimbledon lost their football league team as Wimbledon FC moved to Milton
Keynes in September 2003

Wimbledon changed their name to the MK Dons in 2004 and this season the MK
Dons became Nantwich Town’s first ever opponents in the FA Cup First Round
proper

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December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

South Sydney Rabbitohs star Michael Crocker agreed to join Hull FC in 2009 before
he wasn’t provided with a UK visa and signed instead for South Sydney from the
Melbourne Storm

Crocker played in the victorious Melbourne Storm side in the 2007 NRL grand final
(scoring a try) against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles helping the Melbourne team
coached by Craig Bellamy to the NRL title.

The Welsh footballer who shares the same name as the Melbourne Storm coach
Craig Bellamy is now back at Liverpool where he was a runner up in the 2006-
2007 Champions League, helping the Anfield club on their way to the final with the
equaliser against Barcelona in their 2-1 first leg win in their first knockout round tie
after Brazil born Portugese international Deco had given Barcelona the lead at the
Nou Camp

Like Deco, another Portugese sports star born outside of Portugal is Francis Obikwelu
who won the silver medal in the men’s 100m at the 2004 Olympics in Athens

Another silver medal hero from the 2004 Olympics in Athens was Amir Khan who
won the silver medal in the lightweight division in the boxing event

Haroon Khan is the brother of Amir and has become a successful amateur boxer
himself, winning bronze for Pakistan in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi

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November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Sam Tomkins scored 5 tries for the England rugby league team in the Four Nations
campaign just gone and he made his rugby union debut this past weekend, scoring the
only try for the Barbarians in their 60-11 loss to Australia.

The only other player to put up points for the Barbarians with 2 penalties was
Danny Cipriani, the former London Wasps and England fly half now playing in
Australia.

London Wasps play their home games at Adams Park which they share with
Wycombe Wanderers FC

Wycombe famously reached the FA Cup semi finals in the 2000-2001 season before
losing 2-1 to Liverpool who went on to beat Arsenal 2-1 in the final

On the bench for Arsenal in that final was Cameroon defender Lauren who a year
earlier had scored for Cameroon in their penalty shootout win over Spain in the
Sydney Olympics football final to help his country win a gold medal in Stadium
Australia, now called the ANZ Stadium

The ANZ Stadium is now the home venue of NRL side South Sydney Rabbithos

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November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Sepp Blatter has been in the news this week for his controversial comments inferring
that he thought on field racism in matches could be solved with an end of game
handshake. Not a stranger to controversy, the Swiss head of FIFA was born in 1936.

1936 saw the Summer Olympics staged with much stronger racial issues behind it in
Berlin with Germany controlled by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party where African-
American athlete Jesse Owens famously won 4 gold medals in the 100m, 200,
4x100m and long jump.

Owens’ achievements weren’t equalled until 1984 when American Carl Lewis won
the same 4 gold medals in the Los Angeles Olympics.

Lewis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, a city named after our own Birmingham
the home of Carling Cup holders Birmingham City.

After drawing 1-1 with Peterborough United last weekend, Birmingham’s last victory
came against Leeds United on October 26th.

Leeds United play their home games at Elland Road, the venue for the Rugby League
Four Nations Final where England lost to Australia last weekend.