The possibility of a London Franchise has been toyed with for quite some time, even before the success of the International Series. It’s something that will always be suggested as long as the NFL keep promoting themselves internationally and look to expand the game. London itself is no stranger to the game, having long had an affinity before the past five years of new Wembley Stadium. I personally am a great advocator of having this franchise possibility. But I can appreciate that it’s not without its problems as well as the positives.
Firstly, where would a franchise play? The obvious answer is London. It’s the most accessible for everyone in the country and also has one, pre built, ready made stadium. That’s right, the Olympic Stadium. Think about it this way. The NFL season will leave the summer completely free for athletics in the stadium and it won’t annoy the local football clubs, the FA or the RFU. And the NFL pitch layout does lend itself to being slightly separated from the crowd due to the team sizes and technical areas.
One of the big problems that has been noted recently is if the fans will abandon their teams that they’ve loved and adored for so long in favour of a local team. British sports fans, compared to America, don’t like to change their allegiances in this way. We either share a sense of local community in a team or sentimentality to a memory of youth, happier times or family. So on the face of it, it is unlikely that a London Franchise will be immediately supported. But eventually, it will become a part of the London sporting landscape. The trick is whether or not the NFL should just single out London. Regardless of our club allegiances, we English very easily drop our colours to put on the white and blue or the national kit. If the team was marketed as an English team and a national team for everyone, we may well be more willing to hang up our American jerseys.
This is turn would then alleviate some pressure on existing British American Football teams such as the London Blitz. For this development could either raise the popularity of the game in the country and step up the attendances and participants for the game, or it could completely crush it. What it would do though is raise our university leagues and give people who play the game a chance at glory as well as a different outlet for potential Rugby players. This also raises another point that no one has really noted yet, that I’ve seen anyway. One of the key successes for a franchise will be it’s Britishness. There needs to be a British element to it. Players, coaches, back office, whatever it may be. If there isn’t British people involved that our public can relate to then there won’t be that connection between team and fans and that can only end badly.
If it ever happens, it will be a big risk. To be honest I’m happy with the International Series and the possible expansion to two games. But I am very aware that the fans of the teams in America won’t take to kindly for us taking games away from them, unless they all fancy a London holiday (there’s a huge money making scheme in there somewhere). In this day and age, the logistics of travelling to London and back for either the home or away team isn’t as much of a talking point. These people are sportsmen at the peak of their fitness and if unfit middle aged business men can hack the travel then why can’t they.
This debate will continue until it either does or doesn’t happen. Would I drop my Dolphins jersey for a London one? I might, but the terms need to be right. Until then, I will continue to suffer.