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What's Next?

So now that the WLAF, NFLE and NFL Europa are gone, what's next for American football in other parts of the world?

AFL Europe, one step closer PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 06 August 2007

Since 2006 there has been a rumor going on about an AFL league in Europe. A few weeks ago the rumors got stronger and through a trustworthy source we heard that the AFL is thinking about 4 exhibition games in Europe in 2008 and the start of a European league in 2009.

Word has come to us and has been confirmed by various sources that the AFL wants to start a European adventure possibly in 2009 (unconfirmed). Word also has it that AFL commisionair Baker is talking to NFL commisionair Goodell about the rights of all former NFL Europe teams. This would be good for a AFL adventure in Europe, no need to develop new names and logo's, name recognition and fan base. This would also mean the return of the Barcelona Dragons, London Monarchs and Scotisch Claymores.

If the teams will remain in the former NFL Europe cities is uncertain. The AFL is looking for stadiums with at least 10.000 capacity, this could be a problem for Amsterdam (for one). The planned new indoor stadium will hold enough fans but will it be ready in 2009, we think not.

But before we can look for stadiums it would be nice to have this rumor confirmed via official AFL/NFL channels. So for now we wait and see.

German newspapers write about AFL Europe PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 August 2007

This morning various German newspapers have posted articles about the return of the NFL Europa teams in arena's. Hamburger Morgen Post: "Sea Devils comeback in arena." NRZ Online: "Will Rhein Fire play in dome?"

In Hamburg the doors are open. Uwe Frommhold, boss of the Color Line Arena: “I can quite imagine that.” Ex Sea Devils boss Kathrin Platz: “Why not? Perhaps I would even participate. One can never say never.”

Fire manager Sammy Schmale, who is still under NFL contract untill March 2008, adds: “The thought of Rhein Fire returning indoors is interesting and serious.”

Steve Smith, from the AFL Chicago office responsible for "international development" doesn't confirm this. He admits “A hot topic. We have large international interest as a league. I realy believe in the German football market.”

The idea: A arena season with 12 teams, particularly in NFLE cities. One condition, a general purpose arena with a capacity of at least 10.000.

NRZ even writes about this site: The Dutch website www.afleurope.nl wites, although speculative, that the AFL will hold a tournament with 4 teams in Dusseldorf in 2008.
“I have heard nothing about this”, says Dome owner Manfred Kirschenstein in reply to NRZ questions about this, “in any case the idea is delightfull.”

I would like to comment on this. My sources just told me that it will be a mini tournament in different arena's, and that one of the games will be held in Dusseldorf.

Source 1: Hamburger Morgen Post (German)
Source 2:
NRZ Online (German)
Source 3:
Bild (German, 3mb scan)

More confirmation PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 27 August 2007

In a personal conversation with AF2 president Jerry Kurz (who is also the right hand of AFL commisionair David Baker and responsible for international development, adjustment and marketing) we got the following response to our question about the rumors of AFL comming to Europe.

  1. The AFL is already planning the first exhibition games in Europe, played in Germany.
  2. There is a plan to start a competition with the NFL Europe teams in 2009. There is also a plan to add these teams to the American competition.
  3. The development of nationals will followed closely.
  4. The AFL management visited several World Bowls and have gotten a good impression of the great support and tendency of the fan base.
  5. The AFL is working hard on “AFL EUROPE” and is working on a schedule for when the project starts.

So far the statement of Jerry Kurz.

We have also hear a rumor that the AFL will open an office in Germany in the next few months. This is however has not yet been confirmed by our sources.

Furthermore it has come to out attention that Russell International will be the clothing supplier and Schutt will provide the protection. This is yet unconfirmed by official sources.

We hope to get some more information before Boppard but it might not be until after the weekend.

Arena Football League expanding to Europe PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 16 August 2008

BOPPARD – During the tenth annual NFLE-FAN-MEETING in Boppard we had a talk with Stephen Smith of the Arena Football League. What started as rumors last year has now all been confirmed. The AFL is looking for ways to expand its league in Europe. That's right, expand. No second class development league but teams that are up to competing for the ArenaBowl against their American based counterparts like the San Jose SaberCats or Philadelphia Soul.

On the front row seats you can catch a player or a ball. You can keep the ball but you need to throw the players back, we need them.
Stephen Smith, Director of AFL International Development

The indoor variant should also appeal more to the European fans as the pace is quicker, and the scores are higher. An added bonus is that the spectators in the front rows are in the game. The net and the sides are fair game. If a spectator can catch the ball before the opposing team can grab it it's his. His team will get a Fan Interferance penalty but at least they didn't score that game winning touchdown.

So, what can we expect in the near future? Well, the AFL is wants to hold a exhibition game in Germany at the end of this year. From earlier news we heard that the Philadelphia Soul and Chicago Rush will face each other in an exhibition game in Hamburg. The latest information is that this could be in Hamburg or in Dusseldorf, both are still contending locations.
In the spring the plan is to have a few pre-season games played in Germany as well. They would like to see Amsterdam host the first All-Star game out of the USA.

At this moment there's being looked at Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Mannheim. Cologne was also in the picture but the dome there is to big. The strategy is to fill up a dome. The dome in Cologne can hold 18.000 spectators but the AFL is aiming for 12.000 per game. In that case press would only write about the 6000 empty seats and not the 12.000 filled seats. Also, selling out a 10.000 seater is better then leaving 6000 open seats in a 18.000 seater eventhough there are more spectators.

What other cities might get a team depends on the cities themselves. The AFL wants local partners, like 2Plus in Germany, to help out in achieving this goal. At this moment Amsterdam, Barcelona and London are in the picture and have shown interest in hosting a team. The AFL also want local owners like in the USA and these owners will be at the same league meetings as Jon Bon Jovi, Mike Ditka, Bob Nucci and the other AFL owners. They will have input in how the league should develop.

As for the European teams, will it be Admirals, Dragons, Fire, Monarchs, Sea Devils again? Well, New York has the Dragons, so I believe there will be no Barcelona Dragons. As for the other teams, the NFL has come to an agreement with the AFL about the usage of the team names as you probably have read here last year. Using the NFL Europe/World League names has some advantages but also disadvantages.
One advantage is that the German press already saying “Sea Devils kommen zurück” and “Fire is back”. This gives a PR advantage since most people who have heard about the NFLE team will know the AFL team. On the other hand, some fans will always see the outdoor team as there team and will never support indoor variant.
As you can see in the poll results on this site. Out of the over 1200 voters about 95% say that they will support their former team. That is still a good fan base considering the NFL Europa's last season attendance.

As the teams here will be full AFL franchises players will also get multiple year contracts and will not change much from year to year like the NFL Europe where teams got fresh players and some protected players. This will also appeal more to the fans as they can support the same players year in year out and not have a fresh batch of players every year who they don't know. Also, having contracted players will increase the level of the teams since you have a steady team to build on.
According to Mr. Smith this will improve the local popularity of the team. NFL Europe veteran Jason Shelly already stated that if Amsterdam gets a AFL team he surely wishes to play there. “A player like that should get a three year contract,” Mr. Smith said.

The AFL has learned from the NFL's mistakes. The NFL tried to force the American way onto the European organizations which doesn't work here. The AFL has learned from that and with the experience of also working with the NFL Europe they know how it works in Europe and how not to handle a business here.

From all of this we can conclude that the setup will be like the old World League with teams in the USA and in Europe. First thing that came to our mind was the logistical problems of moving a whole team over the ocean. In response to that Mr. Smith said: “An NFL team travels with about 80 persons, players and staff. An AFL teams travels with 30 persons and that's only 15 double hotel rooms.” Further more, “a plane ticket from New York to Los Angeles costs about $550, from New York to Amsterdam around $700. That's a fractional difference. The teams will come to Europe for a few weeks and play there games here and the same goes for the European teams, they'll go to the USA for a few weeks and play there games.”

Statement to the European American Football Fans PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 February 2008

It is with great pleasure that I address you today, just one day after one of the biggest spectacles in the history of the NFL and American Football have just transpired. We here at the AFL are very happy to hear that there is still a very large following of Football in Europe, and especially in Germany. That is shown by the numerous Super Bowl parties that have taken place in the former NFLE cities and in various other locations throughout your country. This shows that the interest in Am. Football is alive and thriving in Germany.

The AFL is proud to have presented two tickets to ArenaBowl XXII to one lucky fan in Frankfurt at last nights event. ArenaBowl XXII is the highlight of our upcoming 22nd Season, and we are very excited to be returning to the great city of New Orleans for another one of the biggest spectacles in the yearly football calendar, and in our eyes- The biggest of the year.

We are currently in discussions with Huddle football magazine for more comprehensive coverage of Arena Football games and results, and we are very happy with our current relationships with our TV partners in Germany, being NASN and Eurosport2. Please be sure to tune in another year of great Arena Football action when our 22nd Season kicks off on February 29th, 2008.

In closing, I would like to address the question of our leagues plans for International expansion, specificlly expansion into Europe. This topic has been reported on quite often in the past months, and it is surely a hot topic in your minds. Germany and continental Europe remain a high priority in our long term plans. Our staff is working diligently to determine if and what our opportunities in Europe may be and we are currently engaged in discussions with potential Investors and Team Owners who share this interest. We here at the AFL are convinced that our game would enjoy great success in Europe, as was the case in the 1990’s at all 21 events that we staged in Germany, France and Spain. You, the fans have shown over the years that your deep and never ending commitment to the game of American Football do offer the opportunity for success in Europe with the right planning and initiatives. And we here at the AFL hope to enjoy that success with you, the fans. Please stay tuned!

I wish you all a great day.


Jerry B. Kurz
VP of International Development
(On behalf of AFL Commissioner David Baker)

AFL & Germany's 2Plus marketing group enter into exclusive agreement PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 July 2008

NEW ORLEANS – The Arena Football League and 2PLUS, a German-based event and marketing agency located in Dusseldorf have entered into an exclusive agreement to explore ways to grow the sport of Arena Football in Germany, the AFL and 2PLUS mutually announced today.

“German fans have proven that they love American football,” said JERRY KURZ, an Arena Football founder who also serves as the AFL’s Vice President of International Development. “The time is right to explore ways to bring our exciting version of the game to those enthusiastic fans by working with 2PLUS, who is a premiere event and marketing agency.”

Concepts that the AFL and 2PLUS will consider include exhibitions games, youth football initiatives, and the potential for a German AFL team or division. In mid-August, an AFL exploratory committee, which will include Kurz, will visit with 2PLUS in person and conduct a tour of multiple German cities.

“2Plus is very excited about this opportunity to assist the AFL in its exploration of Intercontinental opportunities for the expansion of its great brand and very unique style of American Football, said MARKO SEIDENSTICKER, 2Plus Managing Director.

The AFL has a successful international history, particularly in Europe. In the mid-1990s, the AFL played and sold out 21 exhibition games.

About Arena Football League
Often recognized as one of the nations most affordable and fan-friendly sports leagues, the Arena Football League began its 22nd season in March with 17 teams. It enters its second year of a five-year agreement with ESPN. On the strength of its Mission Statement and Fans’ Bill of Rights, the AFL is the second-longest running football league in U.S. history.

About 2PLUS
One of the most highly regarded sports event and marketing agencies in Germany and Europe, 2PLUS works with numerous Bundesliga teams and has worked on major events such as FIFA World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008. 2PLUS also worked extensively with German-based NFL Europe teams and on all World Bowls from 1997-2007.

Check out AFL Europe's website: http://www.afleurope.nl/

American Football back in Düsseldorf

Category: Games - published 2009-11-19 by AFVD

German-Japan-Bowl - ESPRIT arena Düsseldorf – 24.04.2010

Three months before hosting the European Championships only the best is good enough for the final preparation game for the German National Team.

On April 24, 2010 Germany will meet Japan for the first time in a national team contest in the Germany-Japan Bowl in the ESPRIT arena in Düsseldorf. The organizer of the game is DüsseldorfCongress, the operating company of the
ESPRIT arena.

President of the German American Football Federation (AFVD- American Football Verband Deutschland), Robert Huber says, "This game is an absolute highlight in the history of our federation. With Japan we will play against the second strongest country in the world next to the United States. This game will not only be a game to prepare our national team for the upcoming European Championship but will also help our national team determine its playing level internationally".

Düsseldorf best choice for the game

There could not be a better choice of venue for a game between Germany and Japan than the Düsseldorf ESPRIT arena. Düsseldorf is well known for its many connections and relationships to Japan. More than 200 Japanese companies have offices in Düsseldorf and about half of these companies have either their German or European Headquarters based in Düsseldorf. This special relationship between Düsseldorf and Japan for this game is further grounded in Düsseldorf's special connection to American Football. The oldest existing active American Football club in Germany, Düsseldorf Panthers, is based in Düsseldorf. Thanks to RHEIN FIRE American Football became a big event in the arena starting in 1995. The ESPRIT arena has 51,500 seats and a roof that can be closed completely within 30 minutes. This international game provides a good occasion to once again celebrate a big football event in this modern arena.

Football in Japan

No other country outside of North America has such a long and successful Ameri-can Football tradition than Japan. Japan won the first two American Football World Championships in 1999 in Italy and 2003 in Germany before finishing second to the United States at the World Championships in Japan in 2007 after losing the Championship game in overtime. The first two Japanese American Football teams were founded in 1934.

What is today known as the X League in Japan was founded in 1981. Teams play-ing in the X League are closely affiliated to or directly owned by companies. Since 1983 the Champion of the University League and the Champion of the X-League meet to determine the Japanese Champion in the Rice Bowl.

German National Football Team

Following victories against European Championship competitors Sweden and France, Germany was once again able to assert its top position amongst its Euro-pean competitors. "It was important for us to find a top team to play against, in order to prepare our team for the European Championships in Frankfurt", stated Marshall Happer, the National Team Sports Director of the German national team. "Japan is an ideal opponent. None of the other favorites competing in the European Championships this coming summer would have ready been willing to play against us so close the upcoming European Championships".

“We are really looking forward to having a game with the German National Team. Team Japan won the silver medal and Team Germany won the bronze medal at the last IFAF Senior World Championship held in 2007 in Kawasaki, Japan, but we do not know which team is stronger, since we have never played against each other at the senior level. This will be the first game between the two countries, and we believe it will be an exciting one,” says Teruo Taniguchi, President of Japan American Football Association (JAFA). “We are also looking forward to visiting the city of Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf, with its Japanese community and Japanese ties is one of the closest related cities in Europe to Japan and the game in Düsseldorf has a special meaning for the Japanese people. We appreciate this opportunity and would like to express our special thanks to Mr. Robert Huber, President of the German American Football Federation.

"We are very proud to host this game in 2010 and to bring a big American Football game back to Düsseldorf. Like no other city in Germany, Düsseldorf can look back at a long tradition of American Football", says Jörg Mitze, Managing Director of DüsseldorfCongress. "This is the reason the AFVD decided the ESPRIT arena in Düsseldorf is the ideal venue for this game. The German Japan Bowl will be a success for the city of Düsseldorf, the AFVD, DüsseldorfCongress as well as for all fans who love the game of American Football".

The AFVD and JAFA (Japan American Football Association) want to establish a tradition of the Germany-Japan-Bowl, which will take place every few years. The next Bowl would be the Japan-German-Bowl II, which would possibly be played in Japan shortly before the 2015 World Championships. Respective discussions re-garding the second game were also agreed upon.

NFL: Europe's Game

It's that time of year again, as the NFL compiles its new fixture list Roger Goodell finishes the paperwork on his contract with the Devil to bringing Football to the land of Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler - Europe. Across America fans the fans of 31 teams breath a sigh of relief while the residents of Denver cry into their glasses as the hopes of reaching the playoffs have been snatched away from their grasp before the season has even begun.

And while Wembley will see host to the 49ers @ the Broncos in October, they will not play host to second game, due to the "severe economic climate". And let me tell you now, as an Englishman - nothing pleases me greater.

Since the news has broken I've read comments on the internet ranging from "It's the National Football League, not the International Football League" to "Britains are morons, keep football in USA!" and although very persuasive arguments (despite the fact that 1) it's 'Britons' and 2) I'm not sure how much say most of us Britons had in the decision) my reasons for cheer at this news stem from a far more sinister angle.

In theory, I'm in favour of the NFL trying to expand their fan base - 'fan base' being a byword for 'income' - because, after all it's a business, and more people equates to more money. However, I fear that the NFL are just making one of a long line of mistakes in its history. Let me ask you this, if their was a serious market for Football in Europe, then why did NFL Europa fold? Likewise, if people in the UK really were interested in Football, then why did the television network that's aired Football for the past 20 years consider dropping their coverage, and when they did eventually purchase rights they skipped on Thursday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and drastically reduce their budget on production.

The answer is not that the NFL wants to spread Football - they want a high-profile event that will boost revenue, without having to go through the disaster that was NFL Europa, which seemed to serve the single purpose of reviving Kurt Warner's career.
The conservatism of the National Football League, in both only playing the one game, and keeping it in an English speaking country is something that has struck me as odd, as in terms of governing bodies the NFL is far  from conservative; they alter the rules from year to year while expansion teams have lead to the league changing almost unrecognisably in it's 40 year Super Bowl era history.

You'd have thought if anyone was going to be acceptant of this new tradition it would be fans of Football. One game a year outside foreign soil seems to be impeding a lot less on the game than the creation of two new teams, one of which is perennially forgotten about by it's own fans.

If you compare this with FIFA - soccer's governing body, whose President Sepp Blatter has refused to use video technology because they didn't have it in 1880 when the sport was invented you start to realise the hypocrisy of both Americans and English when it comes to this situation.

The English Football Association - and owners of Wembley Stadium - vetoed a proposal for a football (soccer) game to played in Asia as the fans "wouldn't be able to travel to the game" while it welcoming the NFL with open arms. It's no secret that the FA are in dire straits, pleading for any sport to be played in Wembley following the ridiculous £800M and 4 years it took to build.

When will anybody learn that an entire sport can't be transferred just by one high-profile solution? Did the USA all take up soccer when Pele arrived? Or David Beckham? Those plans went down just about as well as Allen Stanford's ploy to spread cricket stateside.

For the money that's spent on these hair-brain schemes they could just as well put the occasional game on terrestrial television in England, and put some money into teaching it to kids in schools and colleges. That would attract proper fans rather than the fair-weather, white collar suits that turn up at Wembley, who pay in excess of $100 for tickets. And you wonder why it's so popular for the English.

Alternatively, the NFL could win over the Americans by airing the game in Denver and San Francisco whilst renaming the International Series "Princess Diana Memorial Sunday" and show a load of pictures of Buckingham Palace between series.

And that's when it struck me - the International Series isn't for fans of Football. It's for fans of money. If the NFL did things properly, set up academies, created college and university teams, and built up from their places like the UK and Germany would have a structure where in five or ten years they could challenge the NFL. And this is what the NFL is terrified of, they've read history, give the Germans an inch and they'll take a mile.

And they have reason to be worried - the English have been screwing themselves over for over a hundred years. The earliest football teams were founded in the 1880s, and within fifty years it had gone global and England was won just 1 World Cup in its 80 year history.

The same goes with Tennis - the first twenty-five Wimbledon champions were all British; the last British men's Champion was Fred Perry in 1936. The list goes on, England brought the Southern Hemisphere both Rugby and Cricket, and now wallow in the shadows to Australia and South Africa in both.

The only sports that the English still dominate are those that are far too stupid for anyone else to take up. Ten points for anyone who can name a BDO Darts player who isn't English or Dutch.

And I'm sure the NFL is aware of this - they've seen the story of Pocahontas (or its modern adaptation Avatar) and cancelled the second Europe game. It's got nothing to do with "economic climate", or the fact teams only have 8 home games a year. It's because they're terrified they will be shown up just like the English have for the past 100 years.

I say bring the English a sport so ridiculous we won't want it, because, let's be frank, who wouldn't want to see Lacrosse at Wembley in 2011?


AFL Europe in 2012?    
Thursday, 28 January 2010
The International division is included in league's vision

Imagine the Tulsa Talons playing an arena football game in Cologne, Germany, or Barcelona. It's not that far-fetched. Teams in the new Arena Football One league haven't played a game, and owners are already talking about expansion.

One possibility is an international division by 2012 – pretty ambitious for a league that has been cobbled together in the last six months, following the crash of the Arena Football League.

“As crazy as it sounds, it makes perfect economic sense with our economic model to have a four-team division in Europe. The goal is to have an international division as soon as 2012,” said Brett Bouchy, president of the Arizona Rattlers and Orlando Predators.

The league will play its inaugural season in 2010 with 15 teams and Bouchy sees expansion in the U.S. to 20 to 22 in 2011, with possible new markets in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or New York. The ultimate goal is to reach 28 or 30 markets, with several overseas.

Talons co-owner Paul Ross said the AFL staged about a dozen games in Europe over an eight-year period and all were successful.

Sounds like good news for the European fans, now we have to wait and see what time will bring us.



London calling: NFL wants UK team, and soon; Jags look like best fit

June 5, 2013 3:48 pm ET    


London already has proven a sellout-producing site, and the NFL wants more. (USATSI)
London already has proven a sellout-producing site, and the NFL wants more. (USATSI)

Regardless of precisely what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did or didn't say at a conference on Tuesday regarding playing more games in London, make no mistake: Goodell's eyes remain fixed across the Atlantic, and that's not going to change.

A few years back if you had asked me about the likelihood of an NFL franchise in London, I'd have said, sometime in my lifetime, maybe in the next 25 years. Ask me now, and I'd say we'll see football -- American football -- being played on Sundays at Wembley Stadium within the next 10 years (possibly 5 to 7), and, yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the team numerous well-connected NFL people have tabbed as the most likely to land there.

Pete PriscoWhat about Bucs moving to London?

For the last year or so, when I have talked to NFL team executives coming out of various owner's meetings, the tone has changed regarding their impression of the league's flirtation with London. It used to be more of an "if" scenario. Now, it's more like "when" we start playing in London. Like, it's only a matter of time. It's been a major initiative at the league office, spearheaded by the commissioner, and the commitment to getting this done seems unwavering.

When Eric Grubman, an executive vice president with the league who is closely involved with the league's International Committee ("They should just call it 'The London Committee," as one club official put it. "That's really what it is.") addresses owners at this meeting, there is a certainty in his voice, folks have told me, a sense that this will happen.

A franchise in London might not quite be impending, but everything the league has done in recent years -- including adding more regular-season games at Wembley and making the Jags annual tenants there for at least one match, er, I mean, game a year -- signals that this is no passing fancy.

After a league meeting last October, during which Grubman provided a more detailed update on the status of the NFL in London, this is what one team executive present in the meeting told me:

"Grubman pretty much flat-out said, 'We want to have a team in London -- our goal is to get a team there and make this happen,'" said one source who was present for the meeting. "It didn't sound like an 'if,' we took it as a 'when.' "

Now, you might ask, why wasn't Goodell himself making these statements? Well, that's not how it works. He's not running committee meetings and holding court on an issue like that. But make no mistake, Grubman isn't talking out of turn. The commissioner is fully behind this. If ticket sales remain robust and the thirst for more NFL games is there as the league adds multiple games per season -- and there is every sense within the league office that will remain the case -- then the next step is to get a franchise there, and ample time and resources are already being spent working through the various logistical issues that would have to be overcome.

Goodell's buzzword is innovation, and he is always pushing others to explore new horizons. He didn't pocket $30 million not to keep making the owners boatloads of money, and with the TV contracts in the United States secure beyond 2020, the league working on improving the in-game experience, and, short of eventually getting two franchises to Los Angeles (preferably in the Chavez Ravine area), there is only so much more that can be accomplished domestically.

The Buffalo Bills are already becoming more and more of a regional team, playing games in Toronto, and if the Rogers Communications folks (a global heavyweight based in Toronto) acquire the franchise whenever Ralph Wilson passes, then trust me, the Bills will be very, very much a regional franchise, playing plenty of games in Canada. Mexico City, in theory, makes sense, but concerns about security likely preclude it coming to fruition anytime soon.

That leaves London.


Clark JudgeNFL in London? Let's start with NFL in LA first

League officials look at the popularity of sports like soccer worldwide -- the kind of marketing and merchandizing and television rights deals a league like the English Premier League nets in Asia and the Far East -- and see tremendous room for growth. Teams like Chelsea and Manchester United can play exhibition games in Thailand and India or South Africa and pocket big bucks, while growing their brands. They can come to the U.S. for glorified practice sessions and sell tickets for $100 and more each and sell out 80,000-seat NFL stadiums.

So, then, eventually, why can't NFL teams do the same?

And, with the television product pretty much at a saturation point in America (we have games three nights a week), the best way to expand the demand, scope, and rights fees for NFL football abroad would be by having a franchise in Europe playing meaningful games 16 weeks a year. That's how you build fan identity and loyalty and get people digging deep in their pockets to be a true part of the NFL experience.

At some point, the NFL might lose it's chokehold on the wallets of the American sporting consumer (a far off thought, for sure, but look at the dips boxing and baseball have taken at various times), but it has only just begun to exploit the possible revenue streams on a global level. And, I'm sorry, good people of Jacksonville, Fla., but moving the Jags would make total fiscal sense.

(And this isn't about expansion. The owners are very comfortable with 32 teams, or damn close to it. Remember, this is a revenue-sharing model and they only want that a pie cut up into so many pieces. If you can flip, say, a Jacksonville into a London and a San Diego or St. Louis or Oakland into LA, well, that's much more appealing and will grow that overall pie exponentially for all, without adding any more mouths to feed at the table.)

Jacksonville is, at best, the third-best location for an NFL team within its own state. It lacks the local infrastructure, corporate support, capital and stadium to be competitive on a local scale in many ways, much less a global one. You can't even begin to compare it to London in any manner, much less its ability to foster an economically robust pro sports franchise. London could draw on a good chunk of Western Europe within a short train or plane ride, in terms of a regional fan base, and is a worldwide center of banking, culture, construction, you name it.

Issues of travel aside, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with five cities in the world that make better sense for an NFL team than London when you look at this the way an owner would. It has everything in place, and is oozing with potential as an untapped market.

Just imagine what the local TV rights to broadcast preseason games would be like, compared to the relative pittance it would bring in Jacksonville. Think about what you could charge for tickets (and you know these owners would love to get that Pound Sterling rolling in, a currency that far outpaces our dollar). No more putting a tarp over the upper deck. No more competing with college teams for local spending and attendance.


Jags' Joeckel's impactNo. 2 should be big in 2013

Sure, you're competing with soccer, but we're talking 10 dates a year -- including preseason -- at most, and somehow I think with a population that large and an economy that strong and with the interest in the NFL already multiplying over the years. London could find a way to support a team. Don't even get me started on what the sponsorship deals and licensing agreements could look like, compared to what the Jags bring in, and the network of European-based companies that would suddenly want a bigger stake in the NFL.

Being the first league with a franchise in another country would be a legacy-cementer for Goodell. It's the ultimate innovation, and when guys like Robert Kraft and John York opine so openly about the viability of a franchise in London, it's not an accident. It's also not exactly random that Jacksonville ended up being the team to make a multiyear commitment to play games in London, or that the team is working to increase its community outreach and presence there. The earlier the blokes in jolly' ol' Londontowne start taking to the Jags as the home side, all the better.

Assuming the Bills stay in the Southern Ontario/Western New York region, and realizing that the league office won't be letting the Raiders back into Los Angeles under current ownership, much less give them London, the list of candidates for London is pretty slim.

The Vikings got their stadium. The Chargers make too much sense for LA if they move. If the Panthers can't get the upgrades they want to their stadium, expect to hear saber rattling about LA, but London seems too extreme for Jerry Richardson. The Rams got a favorable arbitration decision regarding theirs (though if they don't get everything they want from the locals, I'd put Stan Kroenke, who already owns fabled English soccer club Arsenal, right near the top of owners to possibly go to London or LA). The Titans, maybe after Bud Adams passes? I don't see it. So that about covers possible suspects.

Don't sweat the details, like travel. Have you even looked at the 49ers' brutal travel schedule that's ahead in 2013, or glanced back at the last year's? You think a series of five-hour flights during a six-month schedule is enough of a deterrent to derail all this economic goodness? Then you haven't been paying attention. Don't give me long flights, or fatigue, or players not wanting to play abroad. The league wants to add regular-season games, has made Thursday nights a staple of the schedule and plenty of athletes in other sports go abroad -- it's beyond common in basketball, hockey and soccer, and even baseball.

The London Jaguars (sorry, but just think of the sponsorship deal with Jaguar, a most British company) will take two week swings Stateside, and the league will work out byes for many teams the week after they play at London. West Coast teams will do what the 49ers have already been doing during trips East, and to London, and hold camp for a week somewhere closer between games (Youngstown, Ohio, has become the 49ers' second home).

The London team can easily maintain a U.S. office for some football operations people, where they can conduct player workouts and tryouts in-season, perhaps even maintain a developmental squad based there (and in this day and age, the coach back in London could easily watch a Tuesday tryout in real time over a laptop).

Teams that play in London during the preseason will hold camp over there for a few weeks around the game, and I'd have the London team play only home preseason games -- which creates more dates for them and fans can watch other teams train over there between exhibition games (which grows the overall NFL brand). The Cowboys already fly halfway across the U.S. to train in the cooler climes of California during part of camp, for instance.

(Oh, what, you say that deprives the common fan here of seeing his or her team practice? Take a look at home many teams have already cut costs by moving camp to their training facility. The good 'ol days of veterans riding bikes to practice, quaint and cool as it is, is already succumbing to profits and the simpler logistics of conducting camp the same place you train. Like I said, you must not be paying attention.)

What's that you say, the quality of play will suffer? Um, yeah, again, Thursday Night Football. 'Nuff said.

The London Jags don't have any natural rivalries? Well, some would say London could prove to be plenty big enough to support two teams, and the idea of derbies -- local competing teams from the same (even small) cities is central to soccer culture already (Google "London Derby," then plug in pretty much any other European city you can think of).

So will it happen? Will an NFL team be based in London? Yes, it will.

Will the Jaguars definitely be the team to call London home? I'm not willing to say that just yet, but if I had to place a bet at Ladbrokes (Google it) I'd be putting quite a few quid on the London Jaguars, particularly if this comes together sooner rather than later.






American Football Leagues in Europe

German Football League
British American Football League
British American Football Association
Italian Football League

American Football in India, Sri Lanka & Pakistan


American Football in Japan


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