Jason Cole of B/R has spoken to more tha 10 sources who have said that the NFL has “largely given up” on the idea of placing a team in London. Instead, they’re looking to increase the number of games played overseas.
One of the main issues with placing a team in the U.K., according to Cole, is getting a firmly entrenched in London and getting fans to support them as their home team. There’s also the issue of players not wanting to play in a foreign country and how this could impact a team’s ability to sign players in free agency.
Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that those in charge of the NFL’s London efforts still view 2022 as the target to place a team in the United Kingdom.
“It’s a realistic time frame,” NFL Executive Vice President for International Mark Waller said Wednesday. “But there are still things we need to test for, so we have to be able to build a lot of things into the next few years. We don’t need to prove as much on the fan-demand side. We feel comfortable that, in a few years, we’ll be where we need to be there. The real focus is doing things to keep testing. We’re really focusing on the logistical and operational side.”
According to Breer, the NFL is still considering the addition of another game in London, but it’s possible that games could be played in Germany and Mexico in the coming years as well.
“We feel confident in what we’ve learned in the U.K. to where we can look at adding a game and applying the model into another market,” Waller said. “In the next few weeks, we’ll decide on adding an extra game, going somewhere else, or both. We feel good about the U.K., but the idea of moving forward with other countries is attractive, too.”
Logistics still remain a major issue, but the idea of a “shared franchise” that would play four homes in an American city and the other four games in London has at least been floated in league circles.
“I think it’s more viable than putting a team in London full-time,” said an executive for an NFC club. “But it’s hard to say that makes it work because the logistics would be so odd. Basically, then, London’s never getting the playoff game, and if you’re a fan, you want to go to playoff games. … It’s an interesting idea, but you’d probably not be reaching your potential in either place.”
Even so, an NFC executive tells Breer that this would require a “visionary owner” to pull this off.
“It’s gonna take a visionary owner to say, ‘I’m willing to overcome all that,’ ” said the NFC exec. “But I actually think we’re ahead of schedule with the growth that’s happened.”
The Jets and Dolphins will play the first gae of this year’s London series on Sunday. We’ll have more regarding the NFL possibly placing a team in London as the news is available.