American Football In London
It’s no secret that the NFL wants back into Los Angeles. The two questions have always been “Can we move a team there?” and “If we can’t, where do we put the other expansion team?”
On the latter, Roger Goodell says London.
I think that would ultimately be very unsuccessful. London couldn’t really maintain sufficient interest to maintain their World League team. The London Monarchs left London on a part-time basis, then completely, well before the league ultimately folded. They actually got off to a good start,but interest faded once the novelty wore off (unlike in Germany, where interest was maintained much longer because they actually enjoy football in that country). Which is why I am unconvinced by what we can learn by the success of the recent games the NFL has played out there.
So no, I don’t think a team in London would work.
But I hope the NFL puts a team in London.
Why? Because that will likely, after it fails, lead to another team in the United States. And that will be a team in San Antonio, or Portland, or somewhere else of note. If putting teams in foreign cities that are doomed to fail will help me achieve my vision of a 40-team NFL, so be it!
I’m not much of a sports guy but I do know a lot of people from the UK and Continental Europe and can say this:
They mock all of our spots except basketball. All of them. Baseball is simplified and idiotic cricket, Football is Rugby for cowards and weaklings, etc.
I doubt the interest was very sincere.Report
The World League did surprisingly well in Europe for a while. Of course, the WLAF and NFL-E didn’t ultimately survive, which should tell us something. But it was more successful over there than it was over here.
Notably, though, it wasn’t the UK where it did best. Rather, it was Germany.Report
I think the thinking behind the NFL’s focus on London is metro area population. Unlike the UK, Germany’s metropolitan populations are pretty dispersed. The five largest metropolitan areas in Germany don’t add up to London. That’s Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Koln and Frankfurt am Main.
This is fine if what you want is stadium revenues, but not so much if what you want is TV revenues and sponsorship rights.
It’s like comparing the soccer league business models. Germany has a lot more competitive and economic parity, but absent Bayern Munich, has very little in terms of economic giants in the game. This is in contrast to the UK which has enormous clubs based in London and a couple in Manchester.Report
I would think that a German team in the NFL would probably have fandom all across the country, watching them on TV. On the other hand, given the cultural ties, I’ll guess that people in the UK are more familiar with the NFL and so it has a more natural “home” there, even if Germans like the sport more.Report
Honestly I think it’s just a language issue on the part of Goodell and co.Report
Hawaii is 1000 miles and 1 time zone closer to the nearest existing NFL franchise than London is – and actually likes American sports in all their forms – but notably there are no major league professional sports in the million-plus media market of Honolulu because of the distances involved.
(UH has a hard of enough time getting getting games scheduled, much less a decent conference)
This is pure vaporware buzz by Goodell.Report
I should probably say ‘no major league professional *team* sports’ – the Iron Man Triathlon and the various surfing competitions are world-class.Report
If Goodell is really trying to interest the Brits in the NFL, why is he showing them the Jaguars four years in a row?Report
The solution, of course, is for Jacksonville to take Tim Tebow out of free agency and make him the franchise quarterback.
If that doesn’t back them in to Wembley Stadium, nothing will.Report
I’d have to admit that this would work.Report
Though any sports team based in London should be called the WerewolvesReport
I think that U.S. expats living in and around London enjoy seeing a bit of their home culture there and it’s a good opportunity for British firms to entertain American customers, even if it is only the Jacksonville Jaguars as the “home” team. Is there enough of that to support eight to ten games a year, every year?
Why not Mexico City? Mexican guys I work and interact with frequently love them some futbol norteamericano and they ought to have a better team to root for than Oakland. And for that matter, why not Monterrey, which is a huge city full of people with good jobs, a shorter plane ride from Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans than places like Seattle or Boston.
Why not Toronto? I think there’s more Bills fans in Toronto than there are in Buffalo simply because Toronto is so much bigger than Buffalo. Or Vancouver? Or Edmonton? Turns out Canadians already watch football, although they’ve got the weird drop-kick rule up there and the field is strangely huge (maybe it’s because they use meters instead of yards? I dunno) so it seems like Canadians would embrace the product the NFL has to offer.
Or, as Will notes in the OP, the Germans seem to have a greater affinity for the U.S. flavor of Gridiron than do any other European people. Why fight it? How about the “Berlin Barons”?Report
I can tell you why not Toronto: It’s Buffalo Bills country.
Mexico had crossed my mind as well, though whenever I think of Mexico, I think of the obvious answer to the question of who should get #34: San Antonio.Report
…I think of the obvious answer to the question of who should get #34…
There is some speculation that the cost of a new LA stadium will be so high that the only way to make it work will be a two-team situation like MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. IIRC, the deal at MetLife is that if one of the teams leaves, the other team is locked in for a very long time.Report
My perhaps uninformed view is that they should put the team well outside of Los Angeles. Unlike basketball and baseball, where you need a constant string of people going to and from the stadium for 40 or 80 games, football only needs them to show up once a week. On the day with the least amount of traffic, to boot.
That’s why Green Bay works for football, but not much else. They get people to make the drive from Milwaukee eight times a year plus playoffs. But it still gets to be Milwaukee’s team for TV and fan purposes.Report
The only way Toronto is getting a team is if/when the Bills relocate. There’d be way too much regional overlap with the Bills’ fan base, to the point that putting another franchise in Toronto would probably kills both teams off. However, I would not say that there are more Bills fans in Toronto than in Buffalo – to my knowledge, the games there have not ever sold out, though they’ve come close, and Rogers Centre is significantly smaller than any other NFL venue, including Ralph Wilson Stadium.
About 20% of Bills fans come from Southern Ontario, but I’d wager that the vast majority of those are from Niagara Falls and Hamilton. Once you get to Toronto metro area, the comparatively few NFL fans in the metro area usually root for teams other than the Bills – from what I understand, there’s more Patriots and Steelers fans than Bills fans in Toronto proper.
The Toronto series provides the Bills with a quick influx of cash, but there’s not much evidence that Toronto is actually becoming a place with a significant number of Bills fans – in practice, it typically winds up having the feel of an “away” game, and the Bills have an abysmal 1-4 record in Toronto.Report
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s not Toronto’s fault.Report
Their record in that same period at Ralph Wilson Stadium is a little under .500. Regardless, the difference in atmosphere between the Ralph and Rogers Centre is incredible – the Toronto series games might as well be played in an empty stadium, it’s that quiet, whereas the passion of the fans at the Ralph is not something that anyone who’s ever been there would question.Report
whereas the passion of the fans at the Ralph is not something that anyone who’s ever been there would question
Well, sure. It’s a break from their bleak existence as Buffaloans, a chance to feel that maybe there’s still some redeeming value to life after all.
Whereas Torontans live in, well, Toronto, a place full of various redeeming values.
Football does not belong in London or anywhere else in Europe. The attendance numbers are misleadings. Football-loving Euros and ex-pats from around the continent descend on London for a once or twice-a-year affair. But people aren’t going to fly in from Berlin 8 times a year. It’s just not going to happen.
Texas can probably support two more teams. LA should have a team if not two. Oregon, Oklahoma, and Nebraska are all states with strong football traditions, albeit college ones. I would think this could carry over to a pro team (especially in Oregon).
Of course, this begs the question of whether the NFL should expand. While @will-truman ‘s HitCoffee piece explores the team-to-population ratio, it ignores other factors, specifically declining participation among young athletes. Between increased competition for their time and increased concerns about safety, I don’t know that we will continue to churn out talent for a league that is 25% larger than it is. Especially if the league does what it should and expand rosters (both total number of players and game-day actives, which should really be one in the same).Report
You could make a Freakonomics-style case that less overall talent is a good thing, because it means slower speeds and smaller players, and therefore will reduce the potential for injuries (both immediate and cumulative.)Report
Re the 40-team NFL… The price tag for a new stadium has passed $1B (the 49ers say they can do it for less than that, but so did the Cowboys). A centrally-located stadium in the LA metro area could easily run to $2B. Statistically, there’s a pretty clear trend that says the smaller the metro area, the larger the share of construction that has to be borne by local/regional/state government. My guess is that’s determined by the number and size of non-football events that can hosted to boost revenues (and of course, MetLife Stadium in NJ hosts 16 NFL games per year, not just eight). An LA stadium might be feasible with private money, but one in Portland would not be. State and local governments are still a long way from recovering from the revenue losses of the Great Recession — selling citizens on a very large financial undertaking is going to be a tough sell for many years to come. Several of the larger metropolitan areas without teams are likely to be ruled out because of overlap in TV coverage with existing teams. Largish areas like Virginia Beach, Sacramento, and Hartford/Springfield are out for that reason. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find seven cities (taking LA as a given) able to support a new NFL franchise.
The problem with just looking at team-to-population ratio for the NFL and US as a whole is that so much of the growth is concentrated in a small number of areas, most of which already have teams, or are quite close to an area that already has a team.Report
One of the reasons that the NFL franchises can demand so much from cities is their scarcity. That is the real reason that I think my 40-franchise vision is unlikely. It decreases owner leverage.
I am not just going by total population when I talk about this. I had a spreadsheet and there were like seven different cities that were in cities larger than the five smallest NFL sites (FTR, Green Bay didn’t count) and that’s not even considering how big these places were when they first got teams. Some of those are going to be “close” to other sites, but I don’t see that as a particular problem (and neither does the NFL, when it’s DC and Baltimore). I also think that New York could and would support a team apart from the Jersey Twins.
Forty is a pipe-dream. But the arguments against significant expansion ultimately revolve around it not being in the NFL’s best interest to do so, not that the markets couldn’t afford it (nor that there aren’t enough good players to maintain a compelling product).Report
Why hasn’t the Green Bay model of municipal ownership gone any farther than Green Bay itself? Answer: it’s a violation of NFL rules. Drop the rule, allow a municipality to form up a team, the lock would be broken.
I maintain there’s enough college talent to create a compelling product.Report
Why hasn’t the Green Bay model of municipal ownership gone any farther than Green Bay itself? Answer: it’s a violation of NFL rules.
Back when the Denver Broncos were campaigning for a new stadium, there was considerable local discussion that absent that rule, the value of the team was not much more than the proposed public share of the stadium cost. There was certainly speculation at the time that the uniform redesign (different shades of blue and orange , removal of the “D” from the helmet logo) were a not-so-subtle message that the Broncos could move to another city that would build them a stadium.
 Anyone who moved to Denver between the late 60s and mid 90s eventually saw one of the classic fall sunsets, where the sun is behind the mountains but still lighting the clouds and sky, and had an “Oh, that’s why the Broncos uniforms are those peculiar shades of blue and orange” moment.Report
Yeah. Denver sunsets. A rich, petrochemical smog haze.Report
As someone who was raised under a petrochemical haze, it sounds positively delightful.Report
The NFL 32 owner rule is limiting the game. I can see why it was passed, back in the day, to prevent the messes developing in the NBA. But all we’ve gotten out of it is 32 weird little oligarchs who have goobered up the game almost past recognition.
Allow other municipalities to form up teams under the existing GBP rule and we wouldn’t see these teams blackmailing the municipalities into building them stadiums. Case in point, the truly obnoxious Minnesota Vikings, stinking up the cellar of NFC North — criminy, they are so po-thetic. Yet they’ve managed to extort the money for a new stadium from the — erm — haha — Minnesota Sports Facility Authority, read, craven municipality.
Get rid of the 32 Rule and you wouldn’t see any more of this sort of strongarming.Report
The only real way to challenge the NFL’s oligopoly is an anti-trust challenge.
And no one’s going to take the first step on that, based on fears of a backlash from the owners even if they do end up winning.Report
See American Needle v. NFL.Report
“Get rid of the 32 Rule and you wouldn’t see any more of this sort of strongarming.”
No, every major professional sports franchise (and some minor league ones) tries to get on the municipal dole and/or state welfare, regardless of the ownership structure. Some are successful with their bluffs, some are not, and some are not bluffing.
The NFL is just so much bigger and more prominent than the rest – and has the fewest games per year (by a factor of between 5-10) in a type of stadium least amenable to other uses. (and has bigger stadiums, but the larger footprint is primarily caused by much more demand for acreage devoted to parking. )Report
What messes are developing in the NBA? Or did you mean at the time? The NBA has fewer teams than the NFL and could realistically expand into a few basketball-crazed markets without diluting the quality of the game.Report
Yeah. Denver sunsets. A rich, petrochemical smog haze.
You’re out of date, Blaise. Denver didn’t make the American Lung Association’s list of top 25 worst-air-quality cities in any category this year. Which is really quite an accomplishment, given the population growth, the altitude, the unfortunate geography, and what the problems used to be. The largest component in the visible air pollution these days is dust, most times. Certainly the worst air conditions here in the last few years have been when we’re downwind from the larger forest fires. The big push right now is to clean up VOC emissions at oil/gas drilling sites in the rural parts of the state.
And the sunsets are still blue-and-orange :^)Report
The conditions, [scrollscroll] were from the 60s to the 90s — or at least the entry point. I remember my first visit to Denver on the train, going to Lost Valley Ranch. Oh, boy, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, this is gonna be great, I thought.
As we approached Denver, I could see the mountains through the pall of smog. Interesting sunset, though.Report
@kazzy : I meant — in the NBA at the time.Report
No, what…. Do you have any conception of how the Green Bay Packers exemption works, or how they got it? Let’s see you lay this out for the folks.Report
@kolohe makes an interesting point about the land issues surrounding stadium parking with football, which is purely a cultural issue. Football has a huge tailgating culture. Baseball has a small one in certain pockets. Basketball? Hockey? Unheard of. It’s not a weather issue, since baseball has the best weather for hanging out outdoors and football’s isn’t much better than basketball or hockey. The fact that most football games are played in outdoor stadiums and, therefore, fans are prepared to be outdoors might be a factor. But, one way or another, tailgating is something we do with football.
I’d be curious how a downtown NFL stadium would work. Are there any? All the ones I am familiar with are either way outside the stadium (NY/NJ, New England, Washington) or away from the downtown area in a sea of parking lots and highways (Baltimore, Philly). I don’t personally know of any football stadiums that function like Fenway Park or MSG… right smack in the middle of the city.
As much as I love tailgating, the prospects of taking a subway directly to a football game are appealing.Report
Want to see how sane people would manage all this? FC Bayern Munich, my emotional favourite, plays in Allianz Stadium, which actually hosts two football sides. The parking is underground. Access, by subway, natch.Report
yes. They were grandfathered in. Do you understand that it doesn’t matter and that’s my point?
Do you understand what you wrote?
@blaisep I think a case more on point would be United States Football League et al. v. National Football League et al. which found that the NFL does indeed violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. To the tune of nominal damages, which trebled amounted to an award of $3.00. I can still recall the Late Night with David Letterman tribute to the USFL which concluded with Letterman going to the fifty-yard line at the Meadowlands and leaving three one-dollar bills at midfield for the plaintiffs to come and collect.Report
You don’t grasp any of this, Kolohe. The Packers have no majority owners. All the other NFL teams do have majority owners.
Here are the NFL bylaws. Green Bay got its exception because, uniquely, it was already a publicly owned corporation.
See, the American Professional Football Association was then the big deal and Lambeau had cheated and used college players. APFA pushed Lambeau out in 1921. So Curly Lambeau paid 50 dollars of his own money in 1922 to get Green Bay into the National Football League.
To keep the franchise afloat, Lambeau went out to the community and got donations for one year. But in 1923, he make a public stock offering.
Curly Lambeau practically invented the NFL as we understand it today. Film studies, the use of the forward pass, much of what we understand as offensive and defensive plays, even the concept of a training camp. That got Lambeau in trouble and he left the Packers over it.
Nobody ever tried to sell stock in an American football team, before or since. Green Bay Packers is a religion around here. It’s the weirdest stock of all to own. Strict rules on transfer. Doesn’t pay dividends. While the rest of American football turned to vanity ownership and the NFL became a monstrous engine of non-competition, Green Bay hung in there. Win or lose, it’s the heart and soul of American football.Report
As for being a condescending jerk, Kolohe, takes one to know one, it seems. Blithely uttering “No” to begin his comment, telling us teams want to get on the municipal dole.
No, dumbass. If the town owned the team, the dole would be in an incorporation such as Green Bay Packers. Which was the whole, sole and entire point I was trying to make.Report
When we first moved here to a Denver suburb 25 years ago, there were still some days when the Brown Cloud could be eye-watering (especially when a Denver Cyclone was spinning). It has improved steadily (and drastically) since then. Oxygenated fuel helped. Having Xcel launch a long-term program to clean up the coal-fired plants helped. Modern car tech helped a lot. Banning wood fires (unless it’s your primary heat source) on days when the weather is unfavorable helped. A significant portion of the visible pollution, particularly in winter, was dust from leaving sand applied during snow storms on the roads — Denver and its suburbs now sweep that up as soon as the roads are dry. The main street closest to me is wide enough that there’s an unimpeded view to the south. I know there were clear dry days when we first moved here — blue sky overhead, brown down lower — when I couldn’t see Pikes Peak (65 miles away) through the goop; but honestly, I can’t remember the last time the weather was clear and dry, winter or summer, that I couldn’t see Pikes.
There’s a Cain family brand at Lost Valley. I haven’t been up there since the Hayman fire burned through that part of the Pike Forest in 2002, though.Report
The Lions have a downtown stadium. I only know that because I could see it from my seat at Tigers’s games, so I can’t say anything about tailgating. Not a lot of big parking lots close by, though.Report
If I understand Kolohe correctly, he’s saying that if you were to have municipally owned teams, they’d be on the public dole (like regressive taxes for stadium imorovements in Green Bay), and if you have private ownership they’ll do their best to get on the public dole. So for the taxpaying public, it doesn’t much matter what the ownership structure is. If I’m wrong, Mr. K, just straighten me out.
Curiously, the other day I saw that Joe Montana was criticizing SF for not helping the 49ers build a stadium. Seems to that it’s probably the best decision of municipal government in SF in quite a long time.Report
I’d be curious how a downtown NFL stadium would work. Are there any?… As much as I love tailgating, the prospects of taking a subway directly to a football game are appealing.
The Superdome in New Orleans? FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland? Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati? Pretty much anything built in the last 30 years is going to be at the edge of downtown, at best, or the land prices will kill it unless there’s a special deal (eg, urban blight that can be condemned cheaply).
Denver RTD’s light rail system has a Sports Authority Field stop (on game days only). It’s a bit of a hike to the stadium proper, but unless you pay more than the round-trip rail ticket for parking, you’ll wind up that far away anyway. When the next batch of lines open in 2016, I expect rail to the stadium to be popular. Does that count, or do you demand a subway station under the stadium proper?Report
The City of Green Bay owns the stadium. Packers are paying for the current renovation out of their own funds.Report
I’m not demanding anything. I’m just curious what it’d be like to have a football stadium in the middle of a downtown city with sidewalks lining the exterior of the building, a la Madison Square Garden. If you’re not paying attention, you can bump into that place walking down the street and not even know what it is.
Perhaps there are stadiums out there that more or less fit that bill. I’m just noting that I’ve never seen them.
Metlife Stadium (NY/NJ) runs rail lines on game days, but I believe the setup is similar what you describe in Denver. Contrast that to Yankee Stadium where you can hear the roar of the crowd while waiting on the elevated platform or MSG where the trains run under the building.
If they don’t exist, I presume it is because fans would be unhappy with the lack of tailgating options. When the Jets initially proposed building a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, I remember thinking it was preposterous because the idea of “downtown” and “football stadium” seemed mutually exclusive in my brain.Report
“The City of Green Bay owns the stadium. Packers are paying for the current renovation out of their own funds.”
The previous one from a decade ago is being still being paid for via a Brown county sales tax surcharge – one that is higher than any another such surchase in the state of Wisconsin. This renovation is the one that finally got them the economic sustainability to enable them to play all their games at Lambeau vice a couple a year in Milwaukee.
You also fail to understand that NFL socialism – the magnitude of which would make Mao Tse Tung blush – is what kept Green Bay afloat in the lean pre-Favre years. Were it a MLB franchise, its public ownership model would have imploded in the 80’s.
And you contradict your own point about the uniqueness of the Green Bay situation. It’s exactly because Green Bay stock is more about cachet than business, it would be eminently foolish for other locales to follow suit, so that “we wouldn’t see these teams blackmailing the municipalities into building them stadiums.” Green Bay could afford to do it back when the franchises were worth a pittance compared to now. Besides, to say this again, the Green Bay example manifestly demonstrates a distinction without a difference, with the taxpayers shuttling funds towards football, vice other public uses.
So I understand things perfectly. And more than willing to put my faith in ‘the folks’. I’m sure I have not irritated as many as you have.Report
The NFL is a monopoly. That’s a matter beyond dispute. The Green Bay Packers have an exemption in NFL bylaws. Also beyond dispute. I’ve already established why the Packers got their exemption, a point you’ve said doesn’t matter. When Green Bay wanted a new stadium, they — the city — paid for it. But there’s a difference between the Vikings and the Packers. Vikings threatened to leave if they didn’t get a stadium.
True, a sales tax paid for that stadium. Also true, the Packers weren’t all that great for quite a few years. Maybe they would have winked out. That’s pure conjecture on your part, but that’s moot. They survived.
And just for the record, this isn’t a personality contest. You are nothing to me, beyond what you write here. None of you are. Insofar as you have something interesting or useful to say, you matter. That’s it. Let life turn into a popularity contest and you’ll become so fake you don’t know whether to shit or go blind. People’s opinions about you won’t change, whether you’re nice or not. Take it from someone who’s shaken many hands. You’re judged by your results. So I don’t worry about what people think of me out here. I don’t take any of this personally. Don’t you, either.Report
The NFL would do well to keep up the international touring. There’s not enough support for international franchises but certainly enough money and interest in the proposition to support the trip across The Pond.
World Cricket League could do the same in the USA. A few ODIs here in the States would certainly attract more interest for the game.Report
This has happened before (kind of). When the CFL expanded into the U.S., the Baltimore Colts/CFLers were the only franchise to survive and they quickly became the return of the Montreal Alouettes.Report
@burt-likko : The USFL failed, for various reasons. The judgement was for one dollar. I think American Needle shows the NFL is a separate entity from its teams. Now let’s suppose Minneapolis, sick and tired of a losing team, decided to form up a new team. They’d tell the Vikings organisation, which can’t find the goal line with a GPS, to take a hike and form a new team under the aforementioned Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
So now they apply for entry to the NFL. While USFL v. NFL established a violation of Sherman Act, American Needle establishes the independence of the several teams. Can the NFL bylaws be attacked on the grounds that it gave the Green Bay Packers an exemption, without any further explanation? NFL is already in trouble on Section 1 of Sherman Act.
Nynex v. Discon pertains to refusal to deal. Nobody’s tried this stunt before and IANAL. But NFL has already been ruled a monopoly. All it needs is a Section 2 case to bring the whole rotten mess to a head.Report
What we need to do is set up Football stadiums for dual-use. Play soccer in them the rest of the time.
(hee hee hee)Report
Well, it works pretty well in Seattle: the stadium is regularly sold out for both Seahawks and Sounders.Report
A former commenter here has a couple of comments at this post’s Hit Coffee counterpart, including responses to Blaise and Kolohe.Report
Carolina Panthers stadium is downtown.Report