NFL keeps teasing London with the possibility of its own team
Every year at this time, prominent voices in the NFL suggest that London eventually could have its own franchise. And then no tangible progress is ever made toward it happening.
On Saturday, Commissioner Roger Goodell teased London once again with the possibility of a franchise, saying this at an event in connection with the final regular-season London game of the year: “I feel this market without question could have an NFL team. There’s no question a team could be successful here.”
In many respects, it’s a carrot the NFL continues to dangle, in order to keep the London fans fascinated by where these flirtations could lead. But there’s still no reason to think it will ever happen.
Even if supersonic flight were to make a comeback, putting a team in England (ideally, there would be two) raises plenty of tough questions. Starting with this one: Where will the team(s) come from? Unless the NFL expands (the proliferation of competent young quarterbacks actually could make the proposition viable), someone will have to move. So who will it be? Other than the Jaguars, who play there every year but whose owner insists a move isn’t happening, there’s no obvious candidate.
Second, can a London team really be successful on the field given the disadvantages inherent to playing on the other side of an ocean? Plenty of players won’t want to live and work there (don’t be shocked if draft picks demand trades and/or threaten to sit for a full year and re-enter the draft), and the travel, the exchange rates, the tax rates, the extended road trips (surely, they’ll be playing two or three U.S. games in a row), and all other logistical issues will force the league to try to erase the competitive imbalance with extra cap space or extra draft picks or other things aimed at allowing the London team(s) to be more competitive.
So then what happens if the London team(s) thrive? Every other team will complain that the league is making it too easy for the London team(s), undermining their success, jeopardizing their league-created benefits, and creating real questions about the overall integrity of the game.
It’s one thing to export a handful of teams to London every year. Maybe they’ll get eight of those games (especially if the regular season expands), simulating a full-season schedule but with no true home team. It’s quite another thing to put a team or two there on a full-time basis.
The NFL definitely knows this. But that won’t stop them from continuing to thrill Nigel and his mates with the notion that the London Sillinannies could someday spring into existence.