(above--New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tries to kick a football like a soccer ball at the Brit Oval, a cricket facility near London.)
Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League, the most powerful and successful of the professional sports leagues in America, seems bent on laying the groundwork for an NFL franchise in the United Kingdom. The scheduled game between the rather lackluster Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the powerhouse New England Patriots is the third regular season meeting between two NFL teams in as many years. This one will take place at Wembley Stadium.
According to ABC News, 70,000 tickets have been sold for the game, with 20,000 tickets going in the first seven minutes of availability. The question is: is this a novelty, or a trend toward a keen interest in American football? I find this odd because to me because attempts to bring world football (i.e., Soccer) over here been rather a dud. The Major League Soccer (MLS) league in the States is small potatoes and hardly draws large crowds in the ten orr so franchises that are in operation.
Is there really that much interest in a full-time NFL franchise in the land of Manchester United, Liverpool, West Ham and Arsenal? Goodell seems to think so, or want people to think so.
From the Associated Press:
"The League (NFL) is now looking into playing at least two games a year in Britain, he said. Aside from London, Manchester and Glasgow, Scotland, are being looked at as potential venues.
"I expect that sometime in the next couple of years, we could be playing multiple games here," Goodell said. "If we brought more than one game here, and it continues to have the same kind of enthusiasm and growth of interest, I think that is about as good of an indicator you can get that it could successfully support a franchise. And that's what we're looking at."
Personally I have my doubts about a franchise so far away from all the other NFL teams in North America. And it should be noted the second largest city in America, Los Angeles, might be aa better place to locate a new franchise than a city six thousand miles from the NFC and AFC West Conference teams.
Basketball is a more popular international sport, so why the NFL and not the NBA? Perhaps the fact that games are only played once a week during the regular season could make it more economically feasible to have an NFL team across the Atlantic. In theory, at least. I'd like to know what British sports fans and my fellow NFL followers in the USA think of the viability of this one.
Here's one of my favorite themes from the old NFL Films "This Week" series, that ran weekly during the 1970's and 80's, showing highlights of the previous Sunday match-ups. The music is called "Classic Battle".