Could a full-time NFL team in London succeed?

October 20, 2011|By Matt Vensel

It's London week in the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who played American football across the pond two seasons ago, return to Wembley to "host" the Chicago Bears. The London experiment is now in its fifth year.

The game hasn't sold out -- the NFL can blame the lockout for that -- but it has been well-attended in the past.

But can interest be sustained if the NFL placed a team in London, or would it be a novelty act that faded away?

John York, co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers and the head of the NFL owners' international committee, told BBC that having a franchise in London “is a long-range plan.” For now, they are trying to market the sport.

"We'll have to see what we go through over the next few years, but if the game continues to grow and people love the game, the end game of having a franchise in London would be terrific,” York said.

Mark Waller, the NFL's chief marketing officer, thinks it’s more likely an NFL team would relocate there.

"We're not looking at expanding the league," he said. "We're looking at the 32 clubs that we've got."

The thought of any of the four major American pro sports leagues expanding overseas is still borderline unfathomable to me, even though the NFL and NHL have played annual games in Europe. A global league featuring teams in Europe and China and Brazil would be so futuristic -- like something you would see in one of those old All Sport energy drink commercials. I guess it might be closer to happening than I realize.

The super global leagues are a topic for another day -- one maybe 20 or so years from now. But an American football team in London? Is that something we will see sometime in the next decade? Would it actually work?

Staunch English supporters of American football think it would, but the NFL is still trying to figure that out.

Your turn: Could a permanent NFL team placed in London be successful over the long haul?

Bonus question: Which of the NFL’s 32 teams should be packed up and shipped overseas?

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