The NFL has been interested in the London market for decades. Since 2007, they have slowly increased the number of games played there. 2017 had the most games ever played there with four. Why are they doing this? The only logical explanation is that they would like to eventually add a new team to London and expand the league’s international reach. So given that desire, it is only a matter of time before the NFL proposes a Super Bowl in London. Public sentiment will surely not be on the NFL’s side. The key is to not alienate an established fan base in America. Accomplishing this task may be the most difficult thing the NFL will ever try to accomplish. A number of factors play into this such as establishing a fan base in another country, not alienating an existing fan base and additional costs. If the NFL can figure out these factors then they stand a good chance of having a successful Super Bowl in London.
Establishing a Fan Base:
The NFL has been doing a good job of this so far and seems willing to go the distance to establish a fan base. They have had a steady increase in attendance since the beginning. The largest attendance was at Wembley Stadium in 2017. This number was a record 84,592 when the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Baltimore Ravens. The Jaguars have been the biggest advocates for playing in London after signing a deal with the NFL to play one game there every year through 2020. This explains the large crowds at their games in London but attendance has never gone below 73,000 for any team. While this is very good for assessing whether London likes football, this does not answer if they want to host the Super Bowl.
It is well known that the national pastime for the U.K. is soccer with rugby being a close second. If they are ever to host the Super Bowl, they need to be convinced that American football is a perfect blend of their favored sports. The NFL has already made a commitment to expanding their brand but there is only so much one can do with four weeks of the season. They need to have a full-time ambassador to London to assess the best possible way to fully integrate American football into the fabric of the UK. A Super Bowl in London will not work without the NFL accomplishing this. While the NFL does have a semi-established ambassador in the Jaguars, they need to have a full-time one. This can take the form of a franchise or in a “study group”. The safer route would be the study group which would be dedicated to staying in London year-round for the foreseeable future. This group will be studying the various demographics and social implications of bringing football to the UK permanently. This group would then gather all of their data and establish a proposal for the NFL to use as a blueprint to eventually bring the Super Bowl to London.
Keeping the Established Fan Base:
Americans will undoubtedly be outraged over sharing the Super Bowl with the UK. After all, this is our sport. The NFL needs to establish a plan to avoid alienating the established fan base in America. The best way to accomplish this is to have a study group based in America. This group will study the various social implications of sharing the national pastime with another country. It will then develop a proposal for the NFL to follow. This proposal will become the blueprint for not alienating the established fan base.
While the study may prove to be valuable, the existing fan base may be more flexible than people realize. Americans have gotten used to the idea of sharing a professional sports league with another country as the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association all have teams in Canada. Going to London is different as it is a much larger distance and would require much more resources to work. There is a chance that Americans will be willing to share the Super Bowl with London. This will require a great deal of selflessness as it would mean giving up one of the most valued events of the year, one which has evolved into somewhat of a national holiday.
Greater Costs, Greater Reward:
This will hold the NFL back significantly as it has never dealt with a championship game abroad. Since the London series began the NFL has paid a large sum of money to send close to 500 people per game to advertise American football to the UK. This included paying for travel, training facilities and the stadium. While games have sold out almost every time, the NFL has still lost money due to logistics and lack of British sponsorships. Losing money due to this level of advertisement is not the kind of business the NFL likes to be associated with. However, the NFL should be seeing a profit in the near future due to increased sponsorships and interest. Media rights have been steadily progressing over the years and should help the NFL make a profit in a couple of years.
The NFL should consider signing multiple media platforms from both the USA and the UK. Twitter has broadcasted some games in the past and could be a good platform for the NFL to sign to a media rights deal. Facebook has also been making strides in live media and could be a potential platform for the NFL to consider. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can help soften the financial blow the NFL could take if it decides to have a Super Bowl in London. The UK also has their media platforms such as BBC and Sky Sports which have proven to be financially helpful for the NFL in their ventures in London. Over the past several years they have paid the NFL more and more money. If the Super Bowl were held in London, the combined financial support of USA and UK media platforms should boost the Super Bowl’s revenue to new heights.
London is a great location for the NFL to expand its brand. The only logical conclusion for hosting NFL games would be to eventually host a Super Bowl and to have an NFL team to call its own. If the NFL were to have a Super Bowl in London, their top priority has to be the fans. Without fans, the Super Bowl will be a flop and international markets would reject the NFL. The NFL needs to win over the fans in the UK and it needs to convince its existing fan base that this idea will revolutionize not only the NFL but all sports. There has never been a championship game played at such a distance from the sport’s place of origin. This idea can revolutionize sports but it has to work. A Super Bowl in London can be great for the game of football if everyone works together.