SBJ/January 9 - 15, 2006/Other News

NFL to put international office in Frankfurt

The NFL is opening an office in Frankfurt, Germany, this year as part of its plan to fortify NFL Europe. The international office is the first in five years opened by America’s top sports league and the fifth overall.

German cities are home to five of the six
NFL Europe teams, including Berlin (in black).

The league late last year promoted Seth Rabinowitz to take charge of the new German operation, and he will move there shortly after the Super Bowl. Rabinowitz works in New York in the league’s corporate development group.

“Most of our Europe league business is in Germany, and to service that business out of [our] London [office] requires getting on a lot of airplanes,” Rabinowitz said. “This will integrate us better into the German sporting community, the German landscape. It will give us a better feel for the market.”

Part of the NFL Europe five-year business plan that league owners approved last year was to seek local operators for the six teams, five of which are in Germany. That will be one of Rabinowitz’s first tasks, though he declined to comment on how much an operating right would fetch.

Because NFL Europe is now so centered in the German market, this year will present unique challenges with the World Cup in that country. The NFL Europe season starts two weeks earlier than usual to avoid overlap with the early Cup rounds in June. That means NFL Europe training camps in Florida commence the day after the Super Bowl.

Rabinowitz is not concerned about competition from the Cup. The league’s research shows soccer fans in Germany are primarily older, while football’s fans are younger, he said.

NFL International Office Openings
City
Year
London
1989
Tokyo*
1996
Toronto
1997
Mexico City
1998
Frankfurt, Germany
2006
*The office that opened in 1996 was in partnership with a Dentsu subsidiary; a stand-alone office was opened in 2001. Source: NFL

The league has lost money for years. It initially was launched in 1991 as a way to export the NFL brand, but the NFL now justifies its overseas offshoot as a player-development tool. Rabinowitz said the league does not expect to make money.

Rabinowitz, 38, will report to Jim Connelly, managing director of the Europe league. Rabinowitz will be replaced within the NFL’s corporate development group.

Initially, Rabinowitz will work out of temporary office space in Frankfurt borrowed from a league partner. He expects, however, to secure permanent quarters for the league and the handful of employees the office will hire.

Rabinowitz does not speak German but said he will try to learn. Most German business leaders speak English, he said. And socially, his wife speaks a little German, and he added jokingly that his two young children can learn it quickly, so they can translate for him.

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