This Sunday the NFL comes to London for the third straight year with a regular season match-up between the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As some of you know I'm a UK Broncos fan, it will be my third live game, having managed to get tickets to the other two previous London games as well. Unfortunately I have not yet seen my Broncos live yet but I did get to see the Saints smack down the Chargers last year! This game even thought not particularly exciting on paper will give the UK a taste of what high powered offenses look like. Tom Brady definitely looks like he is ready to put on a show. The Bucs are 0-6 at this point and this game will probably give them a welcome break from the pressure of that and maybe give them a second wind for the rest of the season. Despite the fact that this game should be very one sided it is still very exciting to go and watch a live game of a sport that I personally enjoy more than any other sport.
OK so why is this relevant to the Broncos? Honestly it's not; but the relevance to the future of the NFL is what I would like to talk a little bit about and open up a discussion to hear the opinions of the knowledgeable fans here at MHR.
I've had this post written up for a few days but wanted to wait for the game day threads to ease up a little before posting it.. In the mean time Mike Birty has written a great post about the history of the NFL in the UK and he is going to make this a three part series! Hopefully my post adds something to the discussion.. while not detracting for his posts. So please enjoy and sorry that it's a little long.. :-D
And don't worry there are are no American Werewolfs in this post although we are due a delivery next week just in time for Halloween!!
The Market for the NFL in the UK:
Do people in the UK like American Football?
2007: More than half a million ticket requests poured in soon after Commissioner Goodell announced the London game. A ticket registration process for the game was set up as a fan service for registered members of the NFL's UK website. Word spread among fans about the process and the website's server crashed several times due to the unprecedented traffic.
The first 40,000 tickets made available were sold in 90 minutes. The tickets were available to fans who were randomly selected from the registered ticket requests.
2008: It took just 90 minutes on to sell 40,000 tickets made available for the NFL's second overseas regular-season game. "The game in London was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the entire 2007 season," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "The fan interest was tremendous. The passion they demonstrated for our sport that day continued throughout the season, as television viewership in the U.K. has grown by 40 percent since the game. We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the event from all involved – the teams, our sponsors and business partners and of course the fans themselves. We look forward to another spectacular event in 2008".
2009: It took only seven minutes for the NFL to sell 20,000 tickets for a total of 70,000 already sold for the New England Patriots' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next season at London's Wembley Stadium. Alistair Kirkwood NFL UK Managing director: "Now that people who signed up for our registry of interest have had an opportunity to buy, we are releasing some tickets for general sale. For this game to have sold even more quickly than the previous two NFL regular-season games in the UK is a testament to the support and loyalty of fans here in the UK and proof of a growing audience for the sport."
The answer is that there is a lot of interest in the NFL in the UK, but obviously it is still developing here and the more exposure there is the more people will pay attention to it. There are many other sports for a UK sports fan to be interested in but in my opinion this sport is the cream of the crop. The physicality and the explosiveness of the NFL combined with the complicated strategy and the uniqueness of the 32 different teams makes it very exciting to watch. I have spoken with many people in the UK that are not really interested in the NFL and the main reason that that they give is that the game is to long and it stops all the time. I have no doubt that if those people where patient enough to give it a change and allow someone to explain it to them they would see the reason why this is the most popular sport in the U.S. The Super Bowl is the game changer and many people that watch the SB will go on to pay attention to the sport in the next season.
Another point of importance is that because of the increasing accessibility of the NFL to the UK audience the sport will continue to gain attention and develop a fan base. I also think the Madden game series greatly increases interest and appeals to a younger audience that can and will grow up with the NFL. Some games are shown on regular TV here and there are a couple of highlight shows on regular TV as well. Sky Sports which you have to pay extra for also shows games every week and of course there is NFL game pass. Then of course there is the internet where you can get highlights, full games and read all there is to read about the NFL so there is plenty of ways for the overseas fan to stay in touch with the latest news.
Goodell's plans for expanding the NFL
Whether you like it or not the NFL is a business and they are looking for ways to increase revenue and expand into new markets mainly because the existing market is saturated, i.e. new fans really only develop through population growth.
Goodell seems to have a plan for expansion and London is a big part of it.
NFL might ship two regular-season games to England in 2010
After seeing fans jam London's Wembley Stadium the past two years to watch an NFL game, the league is considering sending a second regular-season contest overseas in time for the 2010 season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the second game also could be played in London or another location in the United Kingdom. The issue will be discussed at next week's league meetings and could be included in a larger plan to add up to two regular-season games to the NFL schedule."The fan reaction we've had in London has been extraordinary. We would like to feed that passion," Goodell said after speaking at the Charlotte Touchdown Club. "We have a great fan base in the UK. There have been discussions of taking the second game and playing it in another market in the UK. That's something that we'll evaluate."
So I seems like this relationship is here to stay with London specifically and maybe in other places in the UK or Worldwide. I believe there was a game in Toronto last year and I'm not sure about this but was there one in New Mexico as well?
This has a couple implications for the NFL, firstly It means that one team will lose an important home field advantage. The twelfth man advantage is gone in this game. However, from the games that i have gone to in Wembley the fans have often given more support for the 'home' team.
There was another big difference from last year, when the crowd was nonpartisan; New Orleans was the home team according to the NFL schedule, and it definitely felt like the Saints were the home team, encouraged by the NFL's leaving Saints banners on every seat. Maybe some of the fans had been among the thousands who flocked to a "Taste of New Orleans" festival at London's O2 Arena earlier in the week. And 20,000 of them definitely were part of a pre-game Mardi Gras-themed tailgate party outside Wembley. The only cheerleaders on show were the Saintsations, and by the time Saints running back Deuce McAllister touched the ball for the first time, it was as if Wembley were the Superdome, and the deep-throated "Doooooce" cheer echoed across the stadium.
Last year Phyliss got booed far more than Brees - admittedly a lot of that booing was from me.. lost my voice for a few days as a result.., even in the Miami - Giants game Miami was getting more support despite them having a very bad season prior to the game. Unfortunately it will never be quite the same as a home game but the teams seem to enjoy the atmosphere despite that, last year one player commented that it had a SB atmosphere in the stadium.
Goodell frames it in this way.
"The negative is taking the home game away from the fans, It's another reason why potentially restructuring the season and changing two preseason into regular-season (games) can be something that we find is beneficial to the fans."
That would also have repercussions to the league.. namely being the physical toll on the players of playing an extra couple of 'real' games, I can't remember where I read it but one player was very much against the extension of the regular season due to how he feels physically after a 16 game regular season.
There have been a couple of exhibition games in years past that have had limited success, mostly because there is nothing at stake and the teams are not really making that much effort. It being a regular season game really makes a difference in terms of quality and motivation. I would guess that hosting the Pro-Bowl here might be one solution, but I haven't heard that discussed as an option so I wonder if they would prefer not to do that for some reason. I think it may be a little to much for the UK fan base to have to know all the players for just one game and I think that having a team to support is much simpler.
I would imagine there is a revenue effect as well, because many business in the home team area would obviously lose profit for that week. So the NFL might well profit from it but there are also others who definitely won't. I don't think it would have that drastic an effect but you never know in the current economic climate.
Speaking of Climate, the first London game was a mud-fest due to heavy rain, which made the game one dimensional but it was still fun. Seeing Brady play, and play well, in snow on Sunday just makes me think that it's part of the game and it definitely shouldn't be a reason for games not to come here.
Also having a game in London affects the air miles that the players travel and how that has an effect on their bodies. However neither the Patriots or the Bucs have the highest mileage totals despite the flight to and from London.
The Seahawks surely won't feel sorry for either team. Just as it was in 2008, Seattle is at the top of the travel list, expected to log 29,054 miles in 2009. The Seahawks will travel more miles this year than Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland combined.
2009 NFL TRAVEL MILES
(2009 preseason and regular season)
TEAM TOTAL MILES
1. Seattle 29,054
2. San Francisco 29,020
3. San Diego 28,628
4. Arizona 27,840
5. Oakland 27,232
TEAM TOTAL MILES
6. Tampa Bay 23,018
7. New England 22,710
8. Denver 21,868
9. Jacksonville 20,934
10. Dallas 19,054
There has been a couple of rumours floating around about having a team here in the future, which I think is a stupid idea.
Goodell added. "With that passion, if it continues, maybe someday they will have an NFL franchise, but I’ve never put a time frame on it."
There was also mention of maybe having a SB here, which I don't think is such a bad idea, especially from a league/business perspective, I mean how many people get to go to a SB anyway.. the tickets are ridiculously expensive. As far as I'm aware watching the SB with a few mates while having a few beers seems like the way the average fan watches it. So I don't think it would make that much of a difference, but of course that is my opinion and I'm sure some of you will not agree.
"Moving the Super Bowl [overseas], that’s not going to happen at all," Fins Owner, Ross told Bob Papa and Randy Cross of Sirius NFL Radio's The Opening Drive on May 21. "That will stay within the borders of the United States. I think you can even just see by the league bringing back the Pro Bowl [to the U.S. mainland] this year just seeing if it really works here is really a testament to showing that football is really America’s game. I think the Super Bowl will certainly stay in the United States. I wouldn’t look for that to move."
What do you think?
Again, this does not really have an effect on the Broncos now but it may very well in the future so I would like to ask you how you all feel about this issue. Personally, I really enjoy going to see a live game and I would love to come to Mile High at some point just to experience a proper home atmosphere.. and watch the Broncos kick butt of course. (Incidentally I will be wearing my Dawk jersey to the game - and I'm hoping for some people to tell me the Broncos aren't for real.. so i can school them on how fo' real we are!) But at the moment I have to settle with the Pats schooling the Bucs on how to play pro football. I would also love for the Broncos to come to London to play a game, but i would obviously be hoping for it to be an away game so that home field advantage is not lost. I have been meaning to ask this for a while but i thought it would be good to coincide it with the game so that it is fresh in people's minds. Are there sides to this story that i may have over looked? How do you think they can best handle the expansion of the NFL? Should pre-season games be cut or reduced to add in more regular season games so that every team would play 1 or 2 outside of the U.S? What say you MHR??