U.K. Officials Pleased With NFL Progress Following Completion Of '14 Int'l Series Games
NFL Exec VP/Int'l Mark Waller today said he and Commissioner Roger Goodell were getting “a lot of good support” from the U.K. government as they left an early-morning meeting with U.K. Chancellor George Osborne, according to the PA. Osborne previously has said the government “will do anything” to secure an NFL team in London on a long-term basis. Yesterday's Cowboys-Jaguars game was the "third and final game to be played in front of a total 250,000-strong crowd in London this season, bringing in estimated revenues" of $4.77M (all figures U.S.) per game. Waller said of today's meeting, “We were talking about the progress we have made in the U.K., the growing fan base we’ve got and the increasing interest -- both our interest in playing here and the fans’ interest. It seems to be mutual" (PA, 11/10). Waller said the league has examined the pay structure and salary cap because of higher tax rates in the U.K. and “have a structure that wouldn‘t penalize us necessarily.” He noted the NFL is "not focused at the moment on which team might move." Waller: "What we’re focused on is do you have a large enough fan base and can you solve the logistics of it, and that’s something we have to be able to answer to our ownership before we can even start a conversation which team.” Waller said in addition to London as a possible city to establish an overseas NFL franchise, the league could “start to look now at Germany." He noted, "We have a great fan base in Germany, always have been, and great stadium there is as well. Another market that's appealing to us is Brazil where obviously they put a lot of infrastructure into their stadiums and that has the benefit of being on the same time zones as the U.S.” (“Worldwide Exchange,” CNBC, 11/10).
NO ENDGAME IN SIGHT: NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood said that the league's future overseas is "not necessarily dependent on a London franchise and that there is no set 'endgame.'" Kirkwood: "It's more dependent on timing and sequencing. This is about trying to build our fanbase to a stage where we can then work out what we are going to do next, but at the same time starting to build other things that will over the longer period of time allow for it to grow and develop" (LONDON TIMES, 11/10). Bruinhill Partners Founder & President Michael Gurka said, “I'm not surprised there's not an empty seat in the house for the NFL, and they’ll continue to pick it up as far as more games being played. It makes a lot of sense. The ratings here are excellent. People want to watch more and more football in the NFL here and when the games start earlier here in the States, it's more to view on a Sunday." He projected the increased frequency of games played in the U.S. "will continue, but an actual team in London would be a major disadvantage just clearly because of the travel concerns." Gurka: "The NFL has got a great recipe here. The teams don't mind being followed by a bye week for some rest because they go to London” (“Worldwide Exchange,” CNBC, 11/10).
MISSED OPPORTUNITY? In Jacksonville, Hays Carlyon writes what the U.K. wants from the NFL "isn't a permanent team, but an eight-game schedule featuring a variety of home teams." American Football Development Managing Dir Gur Samuel said, "They would rather have eight games of different teams." London Daily Mail writer Peter Carline said of a permanent relocation to the U.K., "No matter how the NFL tries to sugarcoat it, I don't see how it's going to work. ... If you have different teams every week, you have something exciting and a new energy for each team" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/10). Also in Jacksonville, Gene Frenette noted the Jaguars' Union Jax fan club, which has 30,000-plus members in the U.K., has "formed a bond with the Jaguars and given the franchise a true home far away from home." Jaguars Dir of U.K. Sponsorships Laura Oakes said that more than "any other NFL team," the Jaguars have "cultivated a fan base across the Atlantic like nobody else on foreign soil." Frenette noted it has "become apparent that their following in the U.K. is rapidly growing." The idea for a fan club "has been reinforced" to Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan by "fellow owners who have been to London in the past two years." Khan: “Absolutely, we have moved the needle in a number of different ways. We had five (NFL) owners here who have seen it with their own eyes. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from them (about Union Jax). The image of the Jaguars in the U.S. from international couldn’t be more different. Out here, we’re looked upon as really a young underdog with cool uniforms that’s going places. Young people who want to identify with our social media initiative really have connected very well. All the effort over the last two years has redefined the Jaguars in a very good way" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/9).
A DOLPHIN TALE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joshua Robinson notes the NFL first appeared on TV in the U.K. in '82, and instead of "just counting jerseys" prior to Cowboys-Jaguars yesterday, he "set out to discover which team London really cares about." Robinson "tracked only the jerseys of teams that appeared in Super Bowls when Britain started paying attention," from '82-90. That the Patriots, who "qualify because they made the Super Bowl in 1985, dominated the 275 jerseys we spotted in an hour outside the stadium was no surprise." But the team that "really made its mark in London" in the '80s was the Dolphins, as they "accounted for 15.6% of the jerseys, with plenty" of QB Dan Marino's No. 13 and DE Jason Taylor's No. 99 (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/10). In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington noted the Cowboys’ popularity in the U.K. predates '07, as the appeal is "directly related to shots of Texas Stadium in the opening credits of the 1980s TV series 'Dallas'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/9).