SBD/October 25, 2013/Franchises

Matchups For '14 NFL U.K. Games Driven By Star Power, Entertainment Value

Johnson and other Lions players viewed as marketable for the U.K. fanbase
The Lions were an "attractive draw" for next year's NFL Int'l Series "because of their current star power and the fact that they've never played a regular-season game overseas," according to Dave Birkett of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Lions WR Calvin Johnson "is one of the league’s most identifiable superstars." NFL Senior VP/Int'l Chris Parsons said that Lions RB Reggie Bush was "popular when he went on a press tour with the Saints before they played in London" in '08. DT Ndamukong Suh also "traveled to London as part of the NFL's U.K. Super Bash two years ago." Lions President Tom Lewand on Thursday said that next year's game against the Falcons in the U.K. is "'a great opportunity,' especially since the Lions did not have to give up a 2014 home date to make it happen." Lewand: "I think our fans deserve every home game that we can have at Ford Field, but this gives us an opportunity to take some of our fans on the road and make some new fans and do so on an international stage." Parsons said the Lions' fanbase is "not insignificant" in the U.K. (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/25). ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein wrote as the NFL "tries to build its presence overseas," it makes sense to "put a team with a bunch of marketable players in one of those games." The Lions have the "best receiver in the game" in Johnson, a "former No. 1 overall draft pick" in QB Matthew Stafford, and one of the game's "most polarizing players" in Suh. Meanwhile, although the Falcons are "struggling this season, they have been a playoff team the past few years." So the NFL is "putting a matchup between two explosive offenses in England" (ESPN.com, 10/24).

FINS TO THE LEFT: In Miami, Adam Beasley writes the Dolphins have been "largely an afterthought domestically as of late because of a string of losing seasons." But they have "built a lasting global fan base thanks to six trips beyond U.S. borders in the past 25 years." Dolphins Senior VP/Media Relations Harvey Greene said, “To this day, we still have a huge international following. We are one of the most popular international teams that there are. Not only in the U.K., but elsewhere internationally." The Dolphins last played in the U.K. in '07, played the Bills in Toronto in '08, and have "participated in four exhibition games outside the country" including London in '88, Tokyo in '91, Berlin in '92 and Mexico City in '97 (MIAMI HERALD, 10/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joshua Robinson wrote despite the "mediocrity" of the Raiders and Dolphins, next year's game between the two "has plenty of potential to excite a British fan base that first started paying attention the NFL in the 1980s and early 1990s -- when those teams were actually competitive" (WSJ.com, 10/24).

COWBOY UP: ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco wrote under the header, "Cowboys At EverBank Would've Helped Jags." The Jaguars' '14 home schedule "includes several pretty good draws, but it could have been even better had the NFL not moved the premier game" against the Cowboys to the U.K. Playing a home game in London is "good for the Jaguars from a financial standpoint." The revenue they receive from ticket sales there "is more than what they'd receive from a home game because Wembley Stadium seats about 20,000 more fans," but the Jaguars "would rather have played the Cowboys" at EverBank Field. They could "certainly use an attendance boost" (ESPN.com, 10/24). Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said next year's U.K. game will be different than the team's '93 preseason game in London "because it's in the regular season and we're trying to get a feel for how it is to play over there, how it is to play a regular-season game, how it is relative to the fan base." He added, "It should be a real positive for our fans" (ESPN.com, 10/24).

NO PERMANENT MOVE COMING YET: The GUARDIAN’s Sean Ingle notes Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan “dismisses suggestions” that the team could move permanently to the U.K. Khan said, “It's very premature for any team to consider coming to London. Remember, this is the first year we have had two games at Wembley. But we have made a commitment. We are coming every year to 2016." Ingle notes playing a game in the U.K. the next four years gives the Jaguars “greater exposure than they would otherwise get back home,” and Khan believes he can “capture new fans in a growing UK market” (GUARDIAN, 10/25). ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure wrote a permanent NFL team in London "might not be an ideal move" because the travel would be "too grueling for an entire 16-game season, from both sides." A couple "showcase games per year should suffice." But the "more success the NFL has in London, the more commissioner Roger Goodell will mull the possibility of having an NFL team there to cater to the U.K. fan base" (ESPN.com, 10/24). The N.Y. Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano said, "I don't get the NFL's obsession with these overseas games, other than to make money, which is great. They enjoy making money, I understand that, but three games are far too many. If they're going to continue to do this they've got to do better than the Raiders and the Jaguars" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 10/24).
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