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SBD Global/October 1, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Plausibility Of NFL Franchise In London Debated After Spirited Weekend

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Regular-season NFL gams in London have averaged more than 82,000 fans.
The NFL is "fully invested in the idea of placing a franchise in London," and while no timetable has been set, '20 "seems like a logical target date," according to Gary Myers of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The league has been "conducting periodic meetings to evaluate the logistics of having a team in London." Whether it is "an expansion team or a relocated team," the NFL is "highly motivated to have a franchise in London." Myers: "The way things are going, it’s quite possible the league will put a team in London before it puts a team back in Los Angeles" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/29). SKY SPORTS reported NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood said that London is “still not a credible host city for an NFL franchise despite the success of the International Series.” He said, “We should still continue to take it one step at a time. We’ve substantially grown our fanbase in the U.K., but I still think we’re a little bit away before we can credibly talk about having a London franchise” (SKY SPORTS, 9/30).

COULD LONDON SUPPORT A TEAM? SPORTS ON EARTH's Ravi Ubha notes the average attendance of the seven regular-season games held in London thus far "sits at more than 82,000, which would have placed it second last season behind" the Cowboys. NFL fans from other parts of Europe "could hop to London and return home the same day, as part of a relatively cheap experience." Whether a London-based team "would face a competitive disadvantage is a consideration that shouldn't be overlooked, and surely won't be by the NFL owners." But perhaps the "question is edging towards, 'Does the league want a team in London?' as opposed to 'Can London support one?'" (SPORTS ON EARTH, 9/30). In London, Oliver Brown wrote following Sunday's Steelers-Vikings game at Wembley Stadium, observers were "left in no doubt from the raptures of these 85,000 disciples that a London NFL team, ostensibly the craziest piece of sporting expansionism ever ventured, might just happen sooner than we think" (TELEGRAPH, 9/30). Also in London, Ben Saunders wrote, "The debate as to whether an NFL franchise will eventually come to London has almost reached saturation point, but last night's action will have given the fans a thirst for more" (LONDON TIMES, 9/30). Sky Sports NFL analyst Neil Reynolds prior to Sunday's game said, "I'm pretty sure there will be three games next year and I think we'll get at least 70,000 people at each match. That would make London one of the best-supported teams in the NFL. I think it's going to happen, I really do" (GUARDIAN, 9/29).

COMMENTS FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY: CBS' Phil Simms said the idea of having a successful NFL team in London "has a chance." Simms: "It's like an event; it's like a party to everybody over here" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 9/29). WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno asked, "Is there a bigger joke than the NFL playing games in London?" He said, "If I'm in Minnesota, I'm going delirious. You took one of my games away" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 9/27). ESPN's Tom Waddle: "You're never going to be able to build a passionate, sizeable fanbase overseas that will support an NFL franchise. If ultimately the goal is to have an NFL franchise play eight home games overseas, that’s never going to work" ("Colin's New Football Show," ESPN2, 9/29). ABC's Brent Musburger said, "A lot of chatter this week about putting an expansion team in London. I got a better idea; let’s put one in Los Angeles” (“Wisconsin-Ohio State,” ABC, 9/28).
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