SBD/October 24, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Shows Serious Intentions Of Adding London Team In The "Foreseeable Future"

Regular-season U.K. ratings are up 150% since NFL's '07 game at Wembley
There is still “plenty of skepticism out there over the NFL's ability to put a franchise in London anytime in the foreseeable future,” but the first 10 months of ‘12 “have shown that the league is serious about trying,” according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. The NFL announced earlier this year that two games will be played in London in '13 and adding an extra game would be “an indicator to see if, someday, fans could be counted on to show up eight times every fall.” NFL VP/International Chris Parsons said, "We look at it and say, 'Would the UK be able to sustain a team?' For now, it's, 'Let's build the fan base, so we can put ourselves in the top five in this country, so we'll be able to have that conversation.' For us, it's building that fan base, getting it to that size and scale, so if there's a future opportunity, we're ready for it. We're not looking at that as a short-term goal, though." Parsons was able to “cite plenty of progress over the first six years of the Wembley incarnation of the International Series.” The league over that period has “gone from having two sponsor partners across the pond to 12, while regular-season ratings in the UK are up over 150 percent.” Also on the rise is “traffic to NFL.com, ‘NFL Game Pass’ (Europe's ‘NFL Sunday Ticket’ equivalent) subscriptions and ‘Madden NFL’ sales.” That growth is why the league has “focused so intently on London and the UK, rather than branching out to places like Germany.” Parsons: "There's no point in being 15th in 20 different countries. ... We want to get it right here before we go elsewhere" (NFL.com, 10/23).

FLIGHT PLAN: In Providence, Paul Kenyon notes the Rams “left on a red-eye flight Monday night and arrived in London Tuesday morning” for their game against the Patriots this weekend at Wembley Stadium. The Rams as the home team are “required to take part in a number of activities promoting Sunday’s game.” The Patriots also will “take part in some of those events, although not nearly as many.” A number of former Rams stars, including “Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce, will help promote the game during the week.” The Patriots “do not leave for London until Thursday night.” They take a “red-eye that has them scheduled to arrive in London at 7:10 a.m. Friday” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 10/24).

THE STRAW THAT BROKE...: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell notes the Rams now are “only on the hook for one trip to London instead of three and a new stadium deal in some yet-to-be-determined form in St. Louis seems to be somewhere off in the not-too-distant horizon.” Burwell: “So if the London game turns out to be a necessary evil that provoked a lot of very smart people to figure out a way to keep the Rams here in St. Louis, I say it's worth the pain of this one lost home game. This is what I call short-term pain leading to long-term pleasure.” Burwell continues: “Pay close attention over the next four months or so, and you'll start to see the makings of an agreement formulating that will keep [Rams Owner Stan] Kroenke's NFL team right here as a permanent fixture.” The clock is “still ticking on the arbitration process between the Rams and the city's Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of the year everyone comes to the realization that refurbishing the Dome under anyone's plan won't please either side” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/24).
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