Saturday, October 24, 2009

NFL Football in London; Will Permanent U.S. Bases Be Established?

(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".


  1. I suppose it could work. We can be a bit stick in the mud over in England. My game is rugby, so I'm usually glued to that in the season.

    For me it isn't so much the American game of baseball, that holds a problem, it's exciting enough. I don't think the distance they have to travel should be a problem. What I do dislike is all the razzmatazz in the build up to the game. The ra ra girls and singers. I want the anthems and then get right on with the game, cut the rest out. Having said that, I think it will pull in the crowds, Doug.

    As to the workability of the whole thing, I'm not really qualified to say, but I'm all for giving something a try before ruling it out.

  2. As a one time avid fan of the game, not a particular team just the whole thing, I welcome the visits. About 15 years ago one of our TV channels broadcast the highlights on Monday evening. It was a well put together programme with interesting and well informed commentators, sadly it lasted for only a few years before another channel bought the rights. My interest wained then with the new less interesting format.

    So, if it re-kindles my interest and with my move up to that part of the world I'll welcome the opportunity to go see a live NFL match some time soon.

  3. It'll be like other offshore enterprises, you mean. Hmm, when offshore so goes the profits. I'm not much of a fan nor do I live in the States anymore, but I can see your point.

  4. I've always thought with rugby and the Premier League and all, that football of the North American variety wouldn't be all that interesting to British fans. Hoe many field sports could really draw support I wondered? But the demand for tickets at Wembley for the NFL teams does give one pause. Well, if NFL works for sports fans in metro parts of the UK, Cassandra, it works for me. But I would have thought you'd have to be born into a culture of NFL-style play to really catch on to it.

    (I was a baseball player in my day, but I played a little football. Not well--but I played. Didn't want the other kids to think I was a Russian spy or anything ;-) But baseball seems resistant to import to Europe.)

    As to the preludes and all the hype that goes with USA football, I have to agree. The European style of football moves so much faster and is less beholden to commercials breaking up the game. It seems part and parcel of college and NFL football over here, and the major game for the NFL, the Super Bowl, is one long dragged-out all-day concert of pop music and commercials with an actual championship game thrown in if there's time. ;-) "Cut to the game!" I always say.

  5. The first time I heard about any interest in American football your way Jim was back in the mid-1980's when the Chicago Bears and some other team played an exhibition game. And then I heard about the highlight showings. (I used to love the highlight shows as much as the actual games, with the rousing music and the dull parts cut out.)

    I know there was more interest in soccer matches when David Beckham came to play for the Galaxy team for a while here. Then he went to play in Milan or got hurt and that all died down. Otherwise, much of the interest in "world football" is confined to ex-patriates from Mexico and Europe. It's still a small game over here, but who knows. One of the national sports networks even shows the British games from time to time, but its on usually around 2 am.

    I'm glad you're open to seeing more live NFL, Jim. With so many mediocre teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about, the NFL needs all the fan and player base they can get.

  6. Those "permanent US bases" (i.e., offshore enterprises) may be a few years off, Red. It'll make for an interesting development, but I think it depends if the NFL is beyond the novelty stage and could form a real fan base in one or two teams. As I said below, its all good from an American football fan perspective.

  7. Hi Doug, interesting background there, where is it?

    I bet you were an ace footballer, grabbing the highlight all the time?

    I do wonder how long it will be before we get all the razamatazz that you experience with your game.
    I find the constantly changing advertising boards around the pitch distracting enough. Now these games are being shown on channels other than BBC and ITV, football may go from just a game to big entertainment. I don't have Cable or Sky, I couldn't cope with so many choices of programme.

    I really think that's what may change the impact the baseball game has over here in 2009 or 2010, the fact people can now watch it on Cable or Sky. They will be more familiar with the rules and who the players are. I'll watch this space with interest for your update when they play. ;-)

  8. The Brits wearing those weird American football uniforms? Well I guess stranger things have happened.

  9. All that padding and such for football came about in the early 20th Century when a presidential commission was created to find a way to stop the high rate of serious and sometimes fatal injuries to college players. (For a while, for example, both the University of California and Stanford University banned football for over a decade and adopted rugby as a substitute.)

    Eventually teams had to have players outfitted with shoulder and knee pads and leather helmets. Now the teams are dressed for what looks like eninactments of the Battle of Nasby in The English Civil War, sans gunpowder and horses far at least ;-)

    London is so big maybe American football can find a niche, Iri Ani. I hope Wellington will get an NFL exhibition game soon as well. A Kiwi would make a great mascot for a team.

  10. My background picture right now is the Ashland Springs Hotel, a nine-story 75-year old landmark in the downtown area. It's just been renovated over the past couple years. I really like its neo-gothic style.

    I had a couple "moments" in games as an potential "ace footballer, Cassandra. Example: I once recovered a fumble as a defensive player in an important game. I then tried to run it in to the end zone for a six-point touchdown. Were it not for the five opponents who jumped on my back and flattened me like a Belgian waffle on the muddy turf, I might have even scored! When my teammates pulled me back up on my feet and my grogginess abated , I reportedly said, "Did we win?" (It was still only the first quarter.)

    As for the game, it wasn't even close sadly. The Patriots beat the Bucs so badly that it was over shortly into the second half. Wish the game had been closer because football tickets are not cheap. I heard one of the US announcers say that Wembley was one of the best sports facilities he'd even seen. Needless to say, the Olympics picked a good site for the Opening of the next Summer Games.

    Advertisers at sporting events are relentless aren't they? They put ads all over the television screen even while you watch a game over here. I sometimes wonder how much people as viewers will accept.

  11. Doug I have say it's hard to think of the football as we know it would be played overseas. I tend to think not with all respect. I could be wrong but I think but things do change. However it would be interesting to see to say the least.

    Where did football originate is my ponder...

  12. I know the NFL had a European league a few years ago, Jack, but it folded. Perhaps London will be an exception.

    I would think the CFL and NFL teams could play together some time in the pre-season.

  13. Yeah in Canada we really are the secondary league here to the's interesting as most all players within the CFL are from America so who knows. I enjoy the game but overseas that is new to me.

  14. Welll, thank you, that was interesting, I never knew how that came about. I must admit it even sounds sensible but to one reared with the macho rugby game (odd that California and Stanford apparently adopted rugby as a safer option - it really isn't - people have wound up paralysed playing it in fact), anyway as i was saying, to one reared with rugby watching people play with all those helmets and padding as though they were really expecting to ride moto-x does look quite peculiar.

    The British American Football team probably should have a bulldog for a mascot.

  15. I forgot that. Just as it used to be that most hockey players in the USA were Canadians. Now I think Russians are a major part of the game.

    Here's an interesting bit from Wiki-Answers on gridiron football's origins:

    "What we consider the first game of Gridiron (american football) as we know it was playing during a game in 1869 between McGill University of Montreal and Harvard. When several players were unable to continue the Association Football match (soccer) the number of players was reduced to 11 and McGill rules were used. This is considered to be the first time what we call Gridiron (american football) was played."

  16. I've often wondered why rugby players in Commonwealth countries played without padding and both teams didn't all wind up in a hospital, Iri Ani. Here's one answer from "Yahoo Answers" website:

    "In particularly, the rules of tackling are very different - high tackles are impermissible, and one may not shoulder-charge or (of course) lead with the head (as is taught in gridiron, to its shame). There also is no "blocking" (it would be interference), and most contact except at the tackle (and even then) comes with limited run-up: no wide receiver running at speed into open space and being taken in the air by a strong safety with a 15 yard running start. A head slap or a clip would be a red-card dismissal, with your team playing a man down the rest of the way."

    Deterrence seems the answer. American football seems geared for forgiving people slamming into one another at a high speed. Today, in modern football, only the passer (the quarterback) is reallyy protected from getting clobbered too badly by a dismissal penalty and he still can get hit hard if he has the ball and is not in the act of passing.

    I think the Bulldog mascot would be perfect. :-)

  17. Too interesting Doug! But that is how we are interconnected I think. I have to get my laptop going and it's early here and I have this program called copernic professional and which I will have to install after I format this computer but history between these two countries is something that really is of interest of me. Within the subject matter of sports - Canadian Hockey actually came from the Iroquois that we on the upper east coast of America - as well Basketball was invented within a small high school in Ontario....

    A great Monday to you and a good one to you.

  18. I didn't know that, Jack. I know Lacrosse was a Native sport--wonder if that was the original derivation?

  19. Thank you Doug, I only get a quick glimpse of the hotel before the page fully loads. It sounds like it's an interesting building, architecturally wise?

    Ah, Doug, I'm so glad you sprung back into shape after being flattened. So those Tom and Jerry films aren't just pretend?

    Yes, I wonder how much we can take of advertising. It isn't only sport, it's getting bad on any programme. The air time the advertisements have now, seems longer than the film!

  20. Haha, not pretend at all, Cassandra. But its a good thing they issue helmets to the players over here--I'm still pulling bits of grass out of my ears after three decades!

    Don't get me started on television commercial blocs during movies. I find there are acouple cable stations that have rendered watching a film truly painfull for the incessant ads. I find if I'm that interested in the film I have to either rent the movie on DVD or just tape it and zip through the commercials. And whoever invented putting ads that move across the picture screen while you're trying to watch the program should be sent to one of the outer Falkland Islands for the duration!