By: Matt Horn
Football fans across America were treated Sunday to an early morning thriller. Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills mounted a 28-point comeback before a late Allen Hurns touchdown sealed the game for the London Jaguars.
Did I say London? The title isn’t overly preposterous.
Jacksonville has played three games in England’s capital in the last three years and are currently the only team under the International Series contract for 2016. NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported last week that the league was considering having a team play two consecutive games in London next year. The Jaguars seem to be the early favorite, something the franchise isn’t much used to.
Keep in mind that this is the NFL that is trying to put two teams in Los Angeles, tackling possibly the biggest player safety concerns in the history of American sports and trying to combat football’s image as a violent culture.
The NFL is also struggling to develop any kind of minor league system. While many baseball, basketball and hockey players take years to develop after college, there are 21 year-old quarterbacks expected to perform against the best football teams in the world.
On top of all the league’s projects, there are scheduling logistics. Eight teams per season would have to fly across the Atlantic and sacrifice practice time to catch up on sleep. From the other side of the pond, Team London would either be traveling to and from the United States eight times in four months, or taking extended road trips away from home.
Both could be considered disadvantages.
Expansion of the NFL’s international presence is by no means a bad thing for football, but there are two massive countries geographically sandwiching the United States. The MLB, NBA and NHL all have franchises in Canada, and Mexico City is currently being explored by the NFL to host games in 2016.
Obviously it all comes down to money, and the NFL has a lot of it. Their $9.5 billion revenue is the most of any U.S. sports, while ticket and merchandise prices continue to rise. The NFL is no doubt the most successful sports organization in the country, so why expand across the ocean?
More profits will come when the NFL gets its wish in Los Angeles. Ultimately the league will have to chose whether the boosted revenue from a team in London is worth putting other pressing projects on hold as teams lose out on preparation time.