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Thread: Potential London NFL franchise

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    Potential London NFL franchise

    I thought I'd put this in a separate thread because although it's NFL related, it's not really about the game so much as it is about the business of the game.

    Every time the international series is played in the UK, the talk starts up again about what the future of the game abroad is. For some, the future is just more and more games being played in London until I presume we'd peak at around one every two weeks. For others, the end goal is to make the game truly international, and try to establish a London franchise, presumably replacing one of the existing teams.

    One of the key issues about this is whether or not a London team would have the fanbase to survive. British fans, would you be interested in supporting a London-based team, or would you potentially buy a season ticket to see live NFL regularly even if you didn't support the new team but kept your old allegiances? And just as important, American fans - what do you think about the NFL's attempts at expanding outwards and is there any strong opinion about franchises, or even more games being played, outside North America?

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    For me, as a long standing UK Steelers fan, I wouldn't switch my allegiance to a UK franchise, and I think a lot of people would feel the same way. Having said that, if there were 8 NFL games a year at Wembley/White Hart Lane/Twickers, of course I would go and watch them as a neutral, in the same way I would go to the international series now.

    I think that whatever happens, a UK franchise would be a win-win in terms of growing the game still further as a global concern. Thinking of new UK fans, especially kids, I'm sure they would become automatic fans of the UK franchise, so although us old grizzled due hards who remember watching NFL highlights on channel 4 in the 80s on a two week tape delay won't change their team, kids just getting into it no doubt would embrace it wholeheartedly.

    It's pretty likely to happen some time around the time of the next CBA if it happens, although the recent moves of the Chargers/Rams and forthcoming move of the Raiders might complicate things. That said, I would be surprised if the Jags weren't called the London Buses or something equally hilarious by 2022.

  3. #3
    I think I'm on the extreme end of the UK fan spectrum. I'm with Maverick when he says that we're all too attached to our teams already. There is zero chance that I'm leaving the Patriots to root for a team in London. Ever.

    But that's the extent of our agreement. I think that a UK franchise would be a really bad idea. You can keep playing the International Series games here. They're fun. We get to see different teams. They create enough of a buzz. But we are decades away from having enough fans for a UK franchise. A few years ago, I was open to the idea, but after seeing what happened with the Chargers and the Rams and the Raiders, I think we should avoid the idea at all costs. At the moment, we're creating fans in the UK each year. That's a net positive for the game. Now imagine that we start a UK franchise...

    The UK fans are happy because either they have a team they can root for over here as soon as they start following the sport, or they can see some of the great teams that come over to play them. They keep going for a few years with their constant early draft picks, but they don't get the marquee veteran names signing for them because who wants to live in the UK? Slowly but surely, the constant 3-13 records will wear away at the fickle fanbase that hasn't had time to become fanatical. And we all know what an NFL team runs on... money.

    Without money coming through the door, they'll up and move back to America. The people who were fans of that team become literally disenfranchised with the sport. Most new fans that had been gained would probably be lost. All of us old Channel 4 watchers would grumble and moan and ultimately go back to our TV sets because Pats-Steelers is still on Monday Night Football next week. The NFL decides that, with the UK franchise being such a failure, the International Series is pointless, so they stick to US games with the occasional game in Mexico and Canada. Sky would see their ratings crash and, though they're still better than levels before the UK games started, they decide to pull out of the TV contract. And once again, we're left with no place to watch the NFL.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sheepster View Post
    I think I'm on the extreme end of the UK fan spectrum. I'm with Maverick when he says that we're all too attached to our teams already. There is zero chance that I'm leaving the Patriots to root for a team in London. Ever.

    But that's the extent of our agreement. I think that a UK franchise would be a really bad idea. You can keep playing the International Series games here. They're fun. We get to see different teams. They create enough of a buzz. But we are decades away from having enough fans for a UK franchise. A few years ago, I was open to the idea, but after seeing what happened with the Chargers and the Rams and the Raiders, I think we should avoid the idea at all costs. At the moment, we're creating fans in the UK each year. That's a net positive for the game. Now imagine that we start a UK franchise...

    The UK fans are happy because either they have a team they can root for over here as soon as they start following the sport, or they can see some of the great teams that come over to play them. They keep going for a few years with their constant early draft picks, but they don't get the marquee veteran names signing for them because who wants to live in the UK? Slowly but surely, the constant 3-13 records will wear away at the fickle fanbase that hasn't had time to become fanatical. And we all know what an NFL team runs on... money.

    Without money coming through the door, they'll up and move back to America. The people who were fans of that team become literally disenfranchised with the sport. Most new fans that had been gained would probably be lost. All of us old Channel 4 watchers would grumble and moan and ultimately go back to our TV sets because Pats-Steelers is still on Monday Night Football next week. The NFL decides that, with the UK franchise being such a failure, the International Series is pointless, so they stick to US games with the occasional game in Mexico and Canada. Sky would see their ratings crash and, though they're still better than levels before the UK games started, they decide to pull out of the TV contract. And once again, we're left with no place to watch the NFL.
    BIB - Can we start first by allowing the UK to get the NFL (And NBA whilst we're at it) Gamepass apps for the PS4 so I can go back to watching my games on the TV rather than through my laptop screen.

    Otherwise, you've summed up exactly what would happen. In a slightly different question, who do you think would own a potential NFL Franchise?

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    As an American fan whose local team just built a new stadium (Minnesota Vikings), I have a few questions as to how this would work overseas. The NFL is most definitely looking at adding new revenue streams (aka television deals) in different countries as the popularity as well as television deals in the US are stable and they naturally want growth (kinda like Vince and the WWE). I could find the break downs with a google search, but I do know that ESPN pays the NFL US $1.9 billion/year for the Monday Night Football telecasts, as well as US $100 million for one playoff game. We are talking ludicrous money here.

    I know the Vikings are scheduled for a "road" game against the Cleveland Browns this year. The thing is, in order for many of the teams to get new stadiums, there is an incredible amount of tax dollars used to build them. The Vikings US Bank Stadium was US $1.1 billion, with the NFL kicking in a portion, the Vikings owners kicking in a portion, then the rest was left to the taxpayers. With quite a few teams having relatively new stadiums, they don't want to sacrifice a "home" game as that is 1 day out of 8 they can generate revenue in their stadium. So, the "home" teams for the UK games are generally teams in older stadiums that are paid for or are teams that can't fill their current stadiums (like the Jags). The Vikings and US Bank Stadium have events in there virtually everyday, but it is the football games themselves that drive an incredible amount of the revenue, as well as the summer concert tours that bring big musical acts in (when Metallica played US Bank last August, a co-worker for my mother that worked the concert said they did US $4 million in alcohol sales alone that day).

    I guess my question is how often does an English Premiere League franchise build a new stadium, how much does it cost, and who pays for it? That, and what is the cost of rent in London? While some NFL guys stay in their team's city year round, most return to their hometowns or homes in Arizona or Florida (no state income tax). I can only imagine the cost to live for 4-5 months in London, and if you were a marginal player, would you rather play for a team overseas or play for a team like the Browns/Bears/insert bad team here?

    I'm fine with games outside the US, it gives fans of the teams a reason to travel abroad.

  6. #6
    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    To answer your question DB, the only team in the Premier League with a government funded stadium is West Ham (they took on the Olympic Stadium built for 2012). All other stadiums are paid for by ownership, so it's very different to US sports in that respect.

    In terms of where a potential franchise might play, my Prem team, Tottenham Hotspur, is building a new stadium to open in 18/19 which will have a retractable NFL pitch (field turf), so that is an option, as well as Wembley and Twickenham. I don't believe that an entirely new stadium would be needed.

    In answer to Sheep, I'd say that as per my OP, for us old men, the International Series is great, but for the young kids starting now? A franchise here would blow them away, and things could really snow ball quickly, though there are of course potential pitfalls, most notably that if it was, say, the Jags that moved, and they continued to suck, then that might be a downer. Having said that, the arrangement where the Jags play the IS every year has meant that they have suddenly become one of the larger fanbases over here, so that might indicate the appeal of a UK based team?

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    Good to see this moving. I'll come back in to some of the posts above in a bit. But just to add this for now - London's a really expensive place to live. If you wanted to live in the vicinity of one of the main stadiums rather than in the heart of Central London, and you wanted to live in a 2 bed apartment rather than in full luxury, you're probably looking at the equivalent of $1500 a month.

    It's a bit more difficult to say about building new grounds because we don't really have Premier League 'franchises' and teams are promoted and relegated between what you'd think of as major and minor leagues on an annual basis. There's been a lot built in the 21st century, though. I'd say roughly half the current Premier League play in 'new' grounds built over the past 25 years (not counting those that have been massively redeveloped). Financing will vary from project to project.

    You raise an interesting point about the home ground though - because association footballers get up in arms about the NFL and Rugby League ruining the Wembley pitch. Would they be able to host 8 home matches a season there with all those other commitments? Or would they have to move it to somewhere else - the logical choice being Twickenham?


    EDIT: OK. I'm intrigued by the possibility of a UK team and I'm not fully convinced either way by the argument that it'll succeed or fail just yet. I think that's on a knife edge. If we come back to that one in a minute - say they don't go that route. Is there scope to extend the international series? What's the attitude towards playing still more games over here? We've got four next year, with another game being played in Mexico City as well. Is there an upper limit on the amount of regular season games we could host without burning out the fanbase? What about push back from the NFL franchises, players, and American fans? Would a better solution for the NFL be to stop trying to expand into the UK but look to host more games in other nations?

    And back to the London franchise for a sec - presumably a London team would potentially have the same rights to 'home' matches as any other team were they to reach the playoffs. Without a franchise, are the chances of us ever having something in the post-season effectively nil?

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    Prime- as I said, the pitch thing isn't a problem as I'm fairly certain that the reason the new White Hart Lane is being built the way it is is precisely to allow the possibility of NFL football to be played with no damage to the pitch. Look up the designs- incredibly impressive (though I speak of course as a Spurs fan). Eight regular season games being played at a Spurs on weeks when we are playing away seems entirely possible.

    As to play offs- I would think the normal rules apply, home advantage to the team with the better seeding. Would maybe mean some funkiness with kick off times, mind you.

    The rent thing I see as a non issue. Even a marginal NFL player would be more than able to afford to live in London and surrounds. What is a HUGE issue which I forgot to mention before you is taxation. There would have to be some kind of agreement with HMRC about that. That's why the idea would need to get past the CBA before anything else happened, because players on a UK franchise would not accept being taxed in America and the UK, I wouldn't imagine.

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    I'm not sure you could arrange it around someone's home venue - logistically it seems to complicated because I have a hard time envisioning either the NFL or Premier League being beholden to someone else for eight weekends of their season. Hence, Wembley or Twickenham. If it's the former, you've still got the same pitch issue. I don't believe a new stadium would be built for this, but I also think there's a potential issue with every existing option - with the possible exception of Twickenham, who'd only have Autumn internationals as a likely clash with the NFL games.

    I don't see the Tax thing being a massive issue. They'd not register as living here full time, and would pay their tax in the US I assume. Ethically that might be kind of iffy for me but I can't see it providing a major administrative hurdle. It's not like they'd be the only people living in London who don't 'live' there for tax purposes.

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    There's no way Spurs build a ground with a retractable NFL pitch unless it's being used...A LOT. I would think that a) at least 2 Int Series games are played at the Lane in 2018 and b) it would be the chosen venue if ever a franchise descended on these parts.

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    In theory, I'd agree with you. And I don't disagree that they could host some of the international series. But to be the home ground of a franchise is to ask the NFL and EPL to synch their schedules, because otherwise one HAS to play second fiddle to the other. Can you see all the other games across the NFL being arranged because the new London franchise can't be at home on certain weekends? And Spurs wont be moved to accomodate either, because you have TV timetables, european football commitments, cup games, and most important of all, policing and the fact all their fixtures are paired with Arsenal, to factor into their schedule.

    What could work, I suppose, is a London franchise that 'tours'. Spurs new ground when available, Twickenham or Wembley when it isn't.

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    Ultimately, money talks. If the Prem, NFL and Spurs all make money, I think they would be more than happy to collaborate on scheduling.

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    Well if it was just a question of money, I wouldn't hesitate to agree with you. But the process is so complicated already. I've read that hundreds of computers are used to come up with the NFL schedule. The Premier League fixtures are intrinsically linked not only to the rest of the Football League, but to international fixtures as well, and the process begins four years in advance. Most ground shares in Britain only work because the football team has priority - meaning that even more successful clubs in other sports have to move, so Wigan Warriors will be bumped off Saturday's in favour of Wigan FC. Then you've got the police, who already look at pairs of clubs to make sure their resources aren't spread too thinly. I just don't see the NFL being willing to factor into the scheduling of, say, the Titans and Chargers, the fact that Spurs have to be away from home because Arsenal need to be at home that week. I think that practically the only way it'd work is if one or the other agreed to shift their matches to Friday night or Sundays, the way that Rugby teams have had to do at Wigan, Reading and Watford in the past.

    We've gotten a bit into a cul-de-sac here, so I'll just repeat the question I posed above - if we don't get a franchise in the UK, what's the upper ceiling for the number of games that'll be played here? Could we get, say, eight matches anyway, or are we probably at our upper limit? Would the NFL rather leave it at four and expand into other markets? If we did have eight games, could we sell that many tickets anyway?

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    I would think 4 is probably maximum for IS to be honest, though we could easily sell out more.

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    Instinctively I'd say that we could sell out a game every couple of weeks for a year or two, but I'm not 100% convinced we could do it every year. Depends, I guess, on how many people would travel from the distances they do now into London every fortnight once the novelty had worn off. Maybe if it stayed as the international series, and it toured around the country a bit more, then that would get different people in at different venues?

    To come back to Wilkimania's question above - ownership questions might make sense for it being the Jags who'd move in that situation, because they're owned by Shahid Khan of Fulham. He's clearly already got an interest in London and in British sport, so while I don't know the ins and outs of it my initial instinct is that he'd still be a reasonable fit and you wouldn't have to find someone new.

    Would anyone see a rosier future for a UK franchise than we've heard so far? Or would its demise be inevitable?

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    Instinctively I'd say that we could sell out a game every couple of weeks for a year or two, but I'm not 100% convinced we could do it every year. Depends, I guess, on how many people would travel from the distances they do now into London every fortnight once the novelty had worn off. Maybe if it stayed as the international series, and it toured around the country a bit more, then that would get different people in at different venues?

    To come back to Wilkimania's question above - ownership questions might make sense for it being the Jags who'd move in that situation, because they're owned by Shahid Khan of Fulham. He's clearly already got an interest in London and in British sport, so while I don't know the ins and outs of it my initial instinct is that he'd still be a reasonable fit and you wouldn't have to find someone new.

    Would anyone see a rosier future for a UK franchise than we've heard so far? Or would its demise be inevitable?
    They would be playing in New White Hart Lane with capacity of about 62,000 or so. Smallest in the NFL, I believe, if it comes to fruition. Shouldn't be hard selling enough tix for 8 games.

    Honestly, if they work out the logistics London is a no brainer IMO.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    To answer your question DB, the only team in the Premier League with a government funded stadium is West Ham (they took on the Olympic Stadium built for 2012). All other stadiums are paid for by ownership, so it's very different to US sports in that respect.

    In terms of where a potential franchise might play, my Prem team, Tottenham Hotspur, is building a new stadium to open in 18/19 which will have a retractable NFL pitch (field turf), so that is an option, as well as Wembley and Twickenham. I don't believe that an entirely new stadium would be needed.

    In answer to Sheep, I'd say that as per my OP, for us old men, the International Series is great, but for the young kids starting now? A franchise here would blow them away, and things could really snow ball quickly, though there are of course potential pitfalls, most notably that if it was, say, the Jags that moved, and they continued to suck, then that might be a downer. Having said that, the arrangement where the Jags play the IS every year has meant that they have suddenly become one of the larger fanbases over here, so that might indicate the appeal of a UK based team?
    Manchester City also plays in government funded stadium.

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    I think the concern is that the audience is a lot more spread out than it is in the US - there, you've got probably a million people within twenty miles who'd want to watch every home game. Are there 60000 people within 20 miles of London who'd want to go to every home match, or are the people who currently travel in from further away for the international series (like me, and I guess like Sheep - but maybe not Mav?) going to be willing to put that kind of travel time in every other week? That's the sole issue in terms of ticket sales. I've never been up more than once before, and coming that kind of distance makes it a pretty long day, it has to be said.

    Following on from Mav's optimism about hosting the franchise at Tottenham, I've been looking more into it and there's definitely a lot of noise from Levy about doing just that. It'd create an interesting situation if it was the Jags who'd move, because the Fulham owner's NFL team would be groundsharing with Tottenham, which in itself is a bit strange. Obviously you couldn't host the games at Fulham's tiny ground, but that wouldn't make the arrangement less strange.

    I wonder if the two games a season that have been promised to Tottenham is an indicator that we will have more games - either that, or Twickenham and Wembley might start to lose matches instead. But I could easily see five games - one at Twickers, and two each at Wembley and White Hart Lane.

  19. #19
    NFL has paid in to New white Hart Lane. About 10 million pounds, not a large sum relative to actual cost of the stadium.

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    No, not a large sum - around 1% of the cost of the ground.

    Sensible investment, though, if they are looking to stage more games here and want to avoid criticisms of the damage to the football pitches.

    Daniel Levy certainly seems to think that there'll be an NFL franchise based at Tottenham down the line, with even some talk of Spurs playing, rolling out the artificial turf, and then the NFL team playing the same day. That'd be remarkable.

  21. #21
    Here's an idea, have London team play 8 games in London, obviously, and have few "away" games somewhere like Manchester or Dublin as part of NFL International Series.

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    Wow. I'd be on board. Irish fans (don't know how many there are?) would be on board. I don't know if American teams and fans might start to resent the amount of time they'd be over here. Although I guess you could try and solve it by primarily bringing teams from outside the London sides division over?

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    Wow. I'd be on board. Irish fans (don't know how many there are?) would be on board. I don't know if American teams and fans might start to resent the amount of time they'd be over here. Although I guess you could try and solve it by primarily bringing teams from outside the London sides division over?
    Switch venues every year. Frankfurt and Manchester one year, Liverpool and Paris next.

  24. #24
    If we're talking about other cities hosting NFL games, I don't see why Cardiff isn't further up the list. We're hosting a Champions League final in a couple of weeks! If we can handle that, we should be able to handle a flimsy little NFL game...

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by sheepster View Post
    If we're talking about other cities hosting NFL games, I don't see why Cardiff isn't further up the list. We're hosting a Champions League final in a couple of weeks! If we can handle that, we should be able to handle a flimsy little NFL game...
    Are we going to get bunch of sheeps to attend?


    I kid I kid. Cardiff can be up there. Pretty much any good sized cities with huge stadium.

  26. #26
    I was going to say that Cardiff isn't that big compared to American cities, but then I looked it up. If we moved to America, we'd be the 43rd biggest city in terms of population, just a bit bigger than Miami, Oakland and Minneapolis. And we'd have the 6th highest population density!!

    Also, our stadium would have the 9th largest capacity of all NFL stadiums. We had the largest stadium in the world with a retractable roof before Jerry Jones decided he wanted one. We've got the same type of grass as Lambeau Field and Lincoln Financial Field too.

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    Plus let's not forget that Cardiff's stadium is really easy to get into and out of, and that it's a great city to be in when there's sport on. I went to an Australia game during the Rugby World Cup and walking around was a lot of fun.

    My guess is that you wouldn't get many games in the rest of Britain if there was a London franchise. Presumably they'd look to expand into the rest of Europe with international games. I reckon there's a large untapped market in Germany, and other cities like Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, might all be competitors. I think if they'd gotten a British franchise up and running, they might think there was less value in having games in Liverpool or Newcastle than taking them to the continent. Ireland would be different, and maybe Wales and Scotland would be too. But they might get left out as well.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    Plus let's not forget that Cardiff's stadium is really easy to get into and out of, and that it's a great city to be in when there's sport on. I went to an Australia game during the Rugby World Cup and walking around was a lot of fun.

    My guess is that you wouldn't get many games in the rest of Britain if there was a London franchise. Presumably they'd look to expand into the rest of Europe with international games. I reckon there's a large untapped market in Germany, and other cities like Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, might all be competitors. I think if they'd gotten a British franchise up and running, they might think there was less value in having games in Liverpool or Newcastle than taking them to the continent. Ireland would be different, and maybe Wales and Scotland would be too. But they might get left out as well.
    Would have to think St. James and Anfield would be too small. Considering minimum standard is somewhere around 60,000 currently. That leaves Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.

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    Too small to do regularly but if you wanted to do it as a one-off, I think you could pull it off. That said, with Old Trafford to cover the Northwest, Principality to represent Wales, and Murrayfield and Celtic Park to cover Scotland, you'd be pretty well covered. It's not like you'd have to have a game in Liverpool with Manchester an hour away, and even as a proud Brummie I can admit that the Midlands is really near enough to London that you don't need to have a game in a venue half the size. Newcastle might be a good place to host one and take the hit because the North East is looking a bit underrepresented, but at the same time you could always get a train from Newcastle or Middlesbrough up to Edinburgh in about the same sort of time we're expecting people from the Midlands to get into London currently.

    The only areas left out in this are Northern Ireland and the Southwest of England. I'm not sure that the Southwest has anywhere big enough to correct for that, to be honest, with St Mary's stadium in Southampton being the biggest ground available. Even then, though you're only 60 miles away from Twickenham but a full 200 from Cornwall. Ashton Gate in Bristol is not big and barely serves them better than Cardiff. There isn't a real serious candidate in the South west proper, with Home Park (less than 20,000) the best of a bad bunch of options.

    As for Northern Ireland.... I guess you could have a game at Croke Park (if the GAA were willing) or the Aviva in the Republic of Ireland that would cover them. Failing that a cheap flight into Manchester.

    But yes - thinking about it you could bring the game to most of the UK on a rotation basis using the 8 stadia that hold 60,000 plus.

    With that said, Everton are building a new stadium (said to be 50k to begin with but with the possibility of expanding to 60k) and the 54,000 seat Anfield is being expanded again by Liverpool, so having the room to do it in Liverpool might be a reality sooner rather than later.

  30. #30
    I think by then NFL will start thinking outside UK also.

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    I don't doubt that. Was just working off the rotation idea you'd brought up a few posts up. But like I said in #27, I fully expect that if they continued to have more games over here, it wouldn't be too much longer until they made for the continent - especially Germany. Dortmund, Munich and Berlin all seem viable venues. Then you've got the Nou Camp in Barcelona, where they sustained one of the NFL Europe teams for so long. If you were willing to lower the capacity for a one-off you could also host one in Amsterdam.

    Even so - plenty of other options there: Paris, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Athens, Kiev, even Warsaw and Budapest at a stretch, if the local numbers were promising enough.

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    Bumping this, because I read an article recently that described the idea of a London franchise as an act of 'colonisation' and pointed to the Tottenham additional pitch as an ominous sign for some British sports that the Americans were coming not just to add to our sporting options, but to actively compete in our markets.

    The suggestion was that down the line it could provide a huge, and perhaps even fatal, challenge to either or both of the codes of Rugby in this country. They were specifically talking Union, I think because Twickenham were playing hosts to the NFL, but I wonder if because of the Six Nations showpiece that there might well be more danger to the long-term prosperity of Rugby League.

    Anyway, the issue gets a bit more fraught if you look at it in that light, doesn't it?

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    So, there's talk here about the new set of games being a test of the franchise idea. Having three games, on back to back weeks, is being seen as almost a dry run both as to whether the fans will turn out in good numbers on consecutive weeks, and whether the infrastructure can actually sustain a run of home matches for a London franchise.

    Nothing coming out from the NFL about it, but that's the thinking of some of the pundits here. Does raise some interesting questions as mentioned in the post directly above again.

  34. #34
    Junior Member
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    I think they want to do this but just don't ever see it happening

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