NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league cannot keep up with the demand for regular-season games outside of the U.S. and must view media as an equal part of the international growth strategy. “The reality is that the demand for playing those games is greater than we have in the inventory,” Goodell said in an exclusive interview with Sports Business Journal. “But what we're trying to do is, it's a combination of the media, the events themselves, and our partnerships.” The NFL will play four games in London and one in Mexico City this season, 14 years after its first international regular-season game in Mexico. The games have drawn large crowds, suggesting interest in additional events. However, further expansion -- particularly a permanent franchise playing a full season in London -- would confront logistical and competitive issues that have not yet been solved. “I have no doubt that the fanbase and the commercial opportunity is there [for a franchise],” Goodell said. “Can we do it competitively? Can we do it where our 32 teams can compete at a competitive level? And that's critical. At the end of the day our game is our product.”
RESULTS FROM GAME PASS INT'L: Goodell said Game Pass Int'l, the NFL’s global direct-to-consumer product, has already helped make American football more popular in the U.K. and elsewhere, and can be further developed to that end. “That is an opportunity for us, and that's growing in double digits, it's extraordinary,” Goodell said. The Bears and Raiders open this season’s international series on Oct. 6 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is designed to host NFL games along with EPL contests. The league is returning to Mexico City this year despite last year’s cancellation of a game planned for Azteca Stadium because of poor field conditions. The NFL is also considering its path into China.
This is an excerpt from an exclusive interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, which will be published in the Sept. 2 issue of Sports Business Journal, a special edition dedicated to the NFL 100th season.
There is "increasing conviction within the NFL to shorten the preseason," and a possible change to the format "could take effect" by summer '21, according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. This change probably would "need to be accompanied by an expansion of the playoff field or regular season to offset the revenue lost from cutting one to two preseason games per team." Sources said that this possibility is being "discussed as part of ongoing negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between" the NFLPA and league owners. Some of the options being discussed "include the lengthening of the regular season from 16 games to 17 or 18 or the expansion of the playoff field from 12 teams to 14." Sources said that some owners "have not given up on getting players to agree to an 18-game season," but the union's "ongoing resistance is increasingly likely to turn the focus to adding playoff games." But, it is "unclear" whether owners might "push for a 17-game regular season if the NFLPA remains adamantly opposed to 18 and whether the players would be receptive." Owners "have the right, in their view, to shorten the preseason and expand the playoffs without the union's consent." The NFL has "acknowledged the lack of quality of preseason games for close to a decade." But players and union leaders have "expressed strong public opposition to an 18-game season" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/29).
Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil, newly elected to the ATP’s players council, has "quickly become the loudest voice agitating for change in the way tennis players are compensated," according to Scott Stinson of the TORONTO SUN. Pospisil has "embraced the role of advocate, explaining to anyone who will listen that while the players -- men and women -- have seen prize money increase dramatically for those that make the later rounds of tournaments, the compensation for the many more athletes who do not enjoy that level of success remains stagnant." Speaking Tuesday night after his victory over Karen Khachanov at the U.S. Open, Pospisil said tennis is "doing so incredibly well, but there’s still just 100 players or so that are making a good living." He added, "It shouldn’t be that way when the sport is so incredibly profitable.” Pospisil said that 14% of revenues from tennis tournaments are "returned to players in the form of prize money, and he has called on professionals to form some sort of union so that they can bargain for a better deal." Roger Federer last night "agreed that more money should go to those players who are not piling up wins." Federer: "I know the tournaments don’t find it very sexy giving it to first- or second-round losers. But the tour, it would be nice if the players could also survive" (TORONTO SUN, 8/29).
STILL NOT ENOUGH? ESPN.com's Peter Bodo noted while prize money for high performers on the ATP has "increased significantly, hitting record numbers year after year, critics say that not enough of the money trickles down to journeymen or players on the cusp of making it onto the tour." This year, first-round losers in both main singles draws will "collect $58,000, a $4,000 increase from last year." The men's and women's winners of the US Open this year will collect $3.85M out of a total purse of $57.2M (ESPN.com, 8/28).
In L.A., Arash Markazi notes with three-on-three basketball making its debut as an Olympic sport at the '20 Tokyo Games, Big3 co-Founder Ice Cube "would like to see some of the league’s players be considered by USA Basketball but isn’t optimistic that will happen." He said, "We have some of the best players to ever play the game and they’re showing what they can do in this three-on-three half-court setting. They should be given a shot but I don’t know if they will. There’s a lot of politics involved there with FIBA and they’re not happy with what we’re doing, but I think they should be given a chance" (L.A. TIMES, 8/29).
BREAKING THE RULES: PRO SOCCER USA's Arman Kafai noted USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter has expressed his displeasure with MLS "playing through FIFA international windows." The practice is "nothing new, with MLS having league games during the window for years." Berhalter said, "Having worked in MLS, we try to be somewhat accommodating and try to work with the clubs, but sometimes there’s not perfect solutions and sometimes we just have to say, that’s just the way it is" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 8/28).