SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL may add more London games in ’14

Marketing for 2013 NFL games in the U.K. will center on London.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The NFL will play at least two regular-season games in London in 2014 on top of its two planned games there this year, and even more contests could be added, said John York, San Francisco 49ers owner and a member of the league’s international committee.

The league is scheduled to brief owners at this week’s annual meeting on developments for this year, the first in which two regular-season games will be played in London, and York said an additional two for London in 2014 are set.

“Two games this year, and as far as I know two games for next year,” he said. When asked whether there could be more than two games in 2014, York replied, “Sure; that is a possibility.”

A league executive hedged on York’s comments, saying that with both London games sold out for this season, there is a “good chance” of two games in 2014.

“What I wouldn’t say is we have locked that in 100 percent … though we have great momentum,” said Chris Parsons, NFL senior vice president, international.

Owners to address VC fund

    NFL owners are slated to vote at their annual meeting this week to change the structure of the league’s investment fund from a venture capital structure to a private equity one, a source said.
The league has decided the original intent of the fund, which has yet to invest, of investing in early stage startups that align with NFL interests did not meet the skill set of its staff. The thinking is that the league officials who are charged with making the investment assessments can better judge more established businesses that align with the NFL than they can analyze startups.
    The league will not take control stakes in companies. It hopes to make its first investment by the end of the year.
    Each team has committed up to $1 million apiece for the fund. The fund was created in late 2011.
    Owners will have a raft of competition committee proposals to wade through at the meeting. The quality of field maintenance is also on the agenda, with calls for the league to get more involved after several high-profile incidents in recent years of poor field conditions. Owners additionally will hear the usual updates from league executives on the key sectors of media, finance, labor, sponsorship, football operations and the league calendar.
    The meeting, at the Biltmore in Phoenix, is scheduled to run through Wednesday.
— Daniel Kaplan
For this year’s games, the league is shifting its marketing focus to London and southeastern England rather than taking a full United Kingdom approach as it has in the past, Parsons said. Since the NFL began playing a single annual regular-season game in London in 2007, the city and its environs have enjoyed the attention of somewhat more than 50 percent of the marketing outlay, Parsons estimated. This year, that figure will jump to 80 percent, he said.

While Parsons declined to say how much the NFL is budgeted to spend marketing the games, he said the figure is increasing significantly this year.

One designated home team for a 2014 game has already been set: the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags last year agreed to play home games in London in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The team also recently hired its first U.K.-based executive, Laura Oakes.

In addition to the Jaguars having a “home” game in London this year (Oct. 27, vs. San Francisco), the Minnesota Vikings will host a game in the city this fall (Sept. 29, vs. Pittsburgh). The Vikings could repeat as a home club in 2014, as well: The team after this season will play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium for two seasons while its new stadium is under construction.

The NFL is pleased with the demand for tickets for its two games this season; 40 percent of all tickets sold are accounted for by “season tickets,” which are passes to both games. To the league, Parsons said, this indicates there is a growing NFL fan base in London.

“The more games we play,” he said, “the more local we feel.”

He added, “As we sit here, I don’t know on three games in 2014. It is definitely one of the things we are discussing: when, and if, we play more games.”

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