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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.

Six degrees of Sports Separation

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

This article will look at six major sports news stories that are in some way linked together beginning with Diego Maradon and ending with the second game of the Baseball World Series. So let’s begin the journey through today’s news.

Maradona would love to manage in the Premiership

The former Argentina coach and arguably greatest footballer of all time, has stated his desire to manage in the Premier League. After leading Argentina to the quarter finals of this year’s World Cup before his team lost to Germany, Maradona is now open to a new challenge and has expressed an interest in managing a team in the Premiership.

Maradona told Sky Sports News “I would like to manage in the Premier League. It has very good teams, an exceptional level and great players.” After being linked with the vacant Aston Villa position before Gerard Houllier was appointed, Maradona will now no doubt be in the mix when the next vacancy presents itself.

Maradona to coach in England?

Although he is looking ahead, Maradona is still disappointed in the manner of his parting with the Argentina national team. Maradona built up a good relationship with a number of the players in the national side and it was thought he would be kept in charge of the national team after the World Cup.

Maradona has a particularly strong friendship with Argentina and Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez.

Tevez injured and back in Argentina

Tevez the key man for City

After limping off in the 3-0 loss to Arsenal last weekend, Carlos Tevez has been ruled out of Manchester City’s next two matches against Wolves in the Premier League and an away trip to Poland to face Lech Poznan in the Europa League.

Tevez has been in typically good form so far this season and his absence will certainly be felt by City who will now have to look to Emmanuel Adebayor and Mario Balotelli to lead their attack. Tevez has now flown back to Argentina to recover from his dead leg and there has been speculation in the media that he is unsettled in England and missing Argentina.

City fans will be hoping this is not the case as Tevez has led by example since being appointed team captain and with the eagerly anticipated Manchester derby against United coming up, City will require Tevez to be fit and ready against his old club.

A former teammate of Tevez at Manchester United is goal keeper Edwin Van Der Sar.

Van Der Sar looks to continue after hitting 40

The veteran Dutch stopper has had a long and illustrious career with Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and now Manchester United and although he has today turned 40, he is keen to keep playing.

Van Der Sar still United number 1

Still the number one choice in goal at United, Van Der Sar’s current deal runs out at the end of this season and because of his age there is a question as to whether he will retire. However, there is now talk that Van Der Sar is looking to remain a Manchester United player for another season and continue to perform right at the top level regardless of his age.

Another sporting superstar still playing in his 40’s is Brett Favre.

Favre injury may end record run

41 year old Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is at risk of ending his NFL record 291 consecutive starts. After deciding to come back for another season in the NFL rather than retiring, Favre has struggled in his 20th season with injuries to his ankle and elbow and after taking a hit to his ankle in the loss to the Green Bay Packers last week, Favre’s consecutive streak of games (he hasn’t missed a game since 1992) may well come to an end.

Favre has struggled with injury this season

The Vikings have had a less than impressive start to the season currently sitting third in the NFC North with a record of 2-4 and Favre himself has been mediocre at best. There has been talk about Favre being benched simply on form but that would seem unlikely with the efforts made by the Vikings to get him back for this season.

Favre managed to practice today with tape on his ankle, which has two fractures, and the decision on whether he will play against the New England Patriots this Sunday falls to head coach Brad Childress.

Favre holds pretty much every record that matters for quarterbacks in the NFL his name has been synonymous around the globe with the NFL.

NFL international series takes place in London this weekend.

Wembley prepares to welcome the NFL once again

After the success of the three regular season NFL games held in London at Wembley stadium, the next instalment of live action in the UK features the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos this Sunday.

Wembley Stadium welcomes the NFL once again

Regardless of the poor form of both teams, the 49ers 1-6 and the Broncos 2-5, Wembley will be nearly if not completely sold out for the game as UK

fans get their yearly dose of live NFL.

The game itself promises to be a close one although a potentially un-exciting encounter. San Francisco have been forced into a change at quarterback with the injury to starter Alex Smith and instead of David Carr, they have gone with former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith as the man for the game in London.

Both teams are in dire need of a positive result in an attempt to kick start their season and with all the divisions in the NFL extremely close at the minute, neither team will have given up on potential play-off hopes.

San Francisco is the designated home team in London and this week has been a good one for San Francisco sports teams at home.

San Francisco Giants go 2-0 up in World Series at home.

Giants shut out Rangers to take 2-0 lead

After a high scoring 11-7 win in the opening game of the best of seven series, the San Francisco Giants thrashed the Texas Rangers 9-0 to take a two game lead in the World Series to decide the MLB champion for this season.

Taking home field advantage in the series, the Giants have won their two home games before heading to Texas for the next three games and then returning to California for the final two games if needed.

Giants pitcher Matt Cain lead the team to a second win

The Giants crushed the Rangers thanks to an inspired performance from pitcher Matt Cain keeping the Rangers without a run before SanFrancisco sealed the win with a glut of runs in the eighth inning.

Texas’ pitchers failed miserably giving up seven runs to take the game from a potential 2 run difference going into the final inning to a 9 point blowout. The Series now moves onto game three in Arlington, Texas where the Rangers will look to rebound from these defeats and turn the series around.