NFL London bound?

This weekend we have the third regular season game played at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Each of the past two games have been a major success, bringing sellout crowds to the event, and possibly making American Football a bit more popular in Great Britain. Not surprisingly, Roger Goodell wants to not only play more games in Britain in general (not just in London), but if it continues being successful, he wouldn’t be against putting a team in London.

In the long run, an overseas expansion team might be as successful as putting a team in London, Canada, in my opinion. I’m all for expanding the audience of NFL football. I’m all for putting pre-season games, and one regular season game in England. But if there were a team there, a lot of problems would arise.

The first, and most obvious, would be travel. A sixteen game schedule makes this somewhat doable, as compared to other leagues, but that doesn’t change the fact that on any given week, you’ll be losing hours to flight time, and the players’ internal clocks will be iffy due to a time zone switch of as much as 8 hours. It would be hard for any NFL team to succeed with this obstacle in their way.

And then there would be the teams travelling to London. Sure, they could facilitate that by giving a bye week before-hand or afterwards to teams travelling. Even then, teams may not recover from the fatigue of the last game, have shorter practice time, and in general, might just cause games to be lower quality in general.

What about players in legal trouble? Sure, it’s not even close to being  a high percentage, but there are high-caliber players who might have trouble travelling. Marshawn Lynch fits into this, for example (in fact, we can see how that plays out this year when he has to go play in Canada). He’s on probation for 3 years. Mike Vick is also on probation for 3 years. These are just two examples, and I’m willing to bet at least three-quarters of the NFL teams will have trouble for this very reason*.

In the article I previously linked to, some players have mentioned that they wouldn’t play for a team overseas. In fact, some players in the NBA and the MLB have had trouble accepting a move to Toronto. Although that was a small percentage (and some could argue that London is a better city than Toronto), that was only a few hours from the United States border. I’d imagine a high percentage of players not wanting to play for a team overseas, which would also contribute to a failing franchise.

Personally, North American leagues wanting to expand overseas sounds nice in theory, but has lots of problems otherwise. The NBA, MLB and NHL should instead embrace the competition in other leagues and have interleague tournaments. There might be some similar complications, but rather than spreading them to a long season, it would instead simplify it to a couple of weeks. The NFL doesn’t have this luxury, unfortunately, but should think of other ways other than expansion to reach out.

*…of course, I don’t know about the rules of their specific probation periods. One can assume for argument that there would be trouble travelling internationally for these athletes though.

~ by The Slurpee Man on October 23, 2009.

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