by Sean Coffey
The NFL announced this week that there will be three NFL games in Wembley next year... well two because one of them is the Raiders at home! (Ed's Note: Hi-yo!) Wow, Raiders joke in the first sentence. Must be because I’m in a good mood.
And why wouldn’t I be? Jay Z last Sunday night, home in time for the Niners to put a beat down on the Texans after the Seahawks lost (okay, it killed my accumulator but what the hell because the Patriots killed that already). Pretty damn good start to the week.
The announcement of the extra game only added to the great week... *insert another Raiders joke yourself*. So what does the NFL have in plan for London in the long term?
The NFL have had 7 games here since 2007, all of them sellouts (including the recent Vikings-Steelers game). The Saturday before the game had over half a million people on the streets for an NFL festival that featured teams and coaches from both teams.
Since 2006, TV audience numbers have almost doubled. NFLuk.com suggests that there are 12 million fans of the game with 2.5 million avid fans (yeah, not sure how they’re distinguishing that either), as well as the Superbowl audience increasing 75%.
More and more people I know are becoming fans of the game in the past few years. There is no question that the International Series is expanding rapidly. But where is the limit? Are we going to have up to 8 games a year, every second week? Or are we getting a UK team?
The NFL seem adamant on having a “home” team in London over the next few years in the Jags. Are they testing the water? It's interesting to note that the original team for this was the Rams, who later had to back out due to their stadium battles.
2013 is only the first year that the NFL has had two London games. By moving to three games next year, before the first Jaguars experiment game has taken place, it shows how confident and pleased the NFL are about their progress overseas. However there are plenty of issues to be resolved before we could have a franchise in London.
One of the main issues is the time zone. For example, there’s no way the league will budge on their schedule of 1EST, 4:15EST and 8:30EST on a Sunday. Well, apart from having the Chargers and Raiders last Sunday night, starting at 11:35EST. That game ended at 2:40EST.
So if a London home game started at, let’s say, 4pm local time, that's 11EST which isn’t a huge difference considering that college games on Saturday start at 12EST.
Obviously teams would have to travel to and from London. A 7-hour flight before games is a little hectic. A quick example to overcome this could be the London team play their first two games on the road. On week 3 they could play their next 3 games at home (which is not uncommon for teams to have stretches of games on the road or at home). Another reason to start home games on week 3 is because then the traveling team could have a bye week as bye weeks start from week 3.
The London team could have 3-4 games on the road followed by home games.
They could also have a base on the East Coast, their training facilities, so that the players and families aren't forced to relocate across the pond. Most teams have training facilities that is far from the stadium (obviously not a few thousand miles!) The San Francisco 49ers have been based in the city of Santa Clara for over 20 years which is 30 minutes down the road.
Would an NFL franchise move to London or would a new franchise be set up? It’s been 16 years since Houston Oilers moved up to Tennessee. This has been the longest stretch of consistency with franchises since 1960. Is it time for an NFL franchise to move?
In 1995, the Browns moved to Baltimore to form the Ravens. The year before saw two teams, Rams and Raiders, leave Los Angeles.
Assuming that the NFL wants a franchise in London, is it possible that we could see a franchise in London before Los Angeles?
Well one of the reasons that the Raiders and Rams left LA was due to poor attendances. Even though the LA stadium had over 90,000 capacity, they were only filing two-thirds of that. Raiders’ owner at the time, Al Davis, decided to leave LA partially due to money issues in renovating the Coliseum.
However, we could be getting a franchise in LA by 2016 which is way too soon for a London franchise. In the last 48 hours (depending on when you’re reading this) the LA City Council has gone on record in asking the NFL for a team. The Council unanimously approved building a stadium next to the Staples Center for an NFL team.
The city already has a deal in place to build a stadium (Farmer’s Field) with Anschultz Entertainment Group if they get the green light for an NFL team.
With talk of expanding the league to 18 games and more recent talk of extending the playoffs to 14 teams, the NFL is growing. It is the number one sport in America and is building to stay that way.
There are a number of teams that could relocate to either city and end this 16 year-drought. The Chargers need a new Stadium and it wouldn’t be too far stretched to relocate down the road. The Raiders have the same problem as their 64,000 capacity stadium is deteriorating. New owner, Mark Davis could want to bring the Raiders back ‘home’. Only Candlestick, Lambeau Field and Soldier Field are older than the Coliseum. The Niners are in their last season at Candlestick while the other two stadiums have been renovated several times.
Another obvious choice is the Rams, who were originally in Cleveland. For an NFC ‘West’ team, maybe a move back to the West Coast is the answer for a fledging franchise?
And the team that blacked out 6 out of 8 home games last year... the Jacksonville Mother Fuc... wait, that can’t be right. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers??
It’s no wonder that the Bucs have already played in London twice. Alongside Jacksonville, clearly the state of Florida has too many teams.
Of course, there are a lot more conditions to the ones I have mentioned. But the landscape of the NFL seems to be changing, it’s only a matter of time before franchises start packing their bags once again. Whether that’s LA, London or another possible location, only time will tell.
This Week's Hail Marys
(HOME TEAM in Caps)
Saints (+3.0) over PATRIOTS
Tom Brady lost his TD pass in each game streak at 52. One streak he’ll want to end on Sunday is his losing streak against Drew Brees, It’s hard to imagine that these two QBs have only played each other three times, and Brees is 3-0 in those encounters. In two of those games, he was a Charger. The Saints are 5-0. Unlike the Pats offense (ranked 19 in points) the Saints offense is clicking. TE Jimmy Graham leads the league with 593 yards. The Patriots have been doing well on defense which will pose problems but so have the Saints D (ranked 2nd and 4th respectively). As the game progresses, I think the offensive weapons of the Saints will tire out the Pats D.
Colts (-1.5) over CHARGERS
The Colts are 4-1 and have knocked off both the Niners and Seahawks. The Chargers were losing to Oakland by 17 points at the half last week and are 2-3. They’re 1-1 at home, losing a close game to the Texans in week 1. Indianapolis are on a four game winning streak. They were down by 5 against the previous unbeaten Seahawks at the start of the fourth quarter. The line is simply too close to ignore in this one.
Raiders (+8.5) over CHIEFS
Yeah the order is the right way around and I’ve mentioned the Oakland Raiders waaaay too much in this blog!
So I’m done!
Happy Football People!
Sean Coffey (formerly Angry Andy) is a former pro-wrestler, turned radio host/podcaster, turned sports gambling addict. He's a die-hard San Francisco 49ers and Miami Heat fan, is dying hard being a Villa fan this season and his favourite film is also, unsurprisingly, Die Hard. Follow him on Twitter @Coffey_23.