Wembley Franchise?

It began in 2007 on a wet October Sunday and has grown into a major event on the NFL calendar with three games played this year with the possibility for even more in the future…

The ‘NFL International Series’, as it is officially known, sees NFL games played at Wembley Stadium to spread the popularity of American Football outside of North America. It has been nothing but a roaring success both from a financial perspective as well as its aforementioned original purpose. The International Series has transcended being just a game, turning the week prior to the match itself into a London-centric festival of American Football; with teams meeting up with Premier League Clubs, NFL run community events such as ‘NFL Play 60’, and the ‘Fan Rally’ in Trafalgar Square.

It has been nothing but a roaring success…

All this raises one big question; if the NFL has managed to spread the popularity of the NFL to the UK and Europe, where is the International Series heading? Talks of a 17th game on the schedule to be played around the world were scrapped following opposition from fans and players alike. Now the focus is on the potential for a team to become permanently based in London, a prospect that several NFL owners have openly backed; most prominently Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, who said prior to the Cowboys recent International Series Game  “London could be an expansion for the NFL. I like the idea. It adds a lot of ‘wow’ to the NFL.” A second big question is logistics, yes the popularity of American Football has increased a rapid pace in the last decade but can London support a team? The average attendance of games this season, the first season with the expanded three game format, was over 83,000 putting Wembley behind only the Dallas Cowboys, a Franchise known as ‘America’s team’ such is their nationwide level of support.

…the NFL has to wait several more years before becoming a transatlantic competition

Although there are issues, particularly regarding travel, with the vast distance between London and any other NFL city, would it make any London team’s home advantage too great whilst simultaneously disadvantaging them when on US soil? Furthermore could distance place London on the back foot when recruiting players? These are complex issues which will have to be dealt with before a team can claim Wembley as a permanent home and are likely to mean that the NFL has to wait several more years before becoming a transatlantic competition.

Article by Adam Gibbor (First Year Joint Honours ACS)

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