More talk of London NFL franchise, but obstacles are significant
With the Bucs having traveled to London for games twice in the past three seasons, you’re probably quite familiar with the idea that the NFL wants to create a bigger footprint in Europe.
It has done that with the International Series, which currently includes an annual game at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Bucs played in it in 2009 and 2011.
Now, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose team takes on the Rams in London this season, is saying in the English media that he can envision a permanent franchise in the U.K.
“I personally think we should have a franchise in London and that is something I am going to push for,” said Kraft, according to Sky Sports. “I think I said that the last time we were over here in 2009 and before this next decade is out, I hope we have a team here. I think that would be right for the NFL and this fan base has proven they deserve it.”
Kraft is one of the league’s more influential owners, so his throwing his considerable weight behind this issue can’t hurt. We already know commissioner Roger Goodell is on board, as he’s said in the past.
Still, this is going to be a tall order for the NFL to pull off. It has found European fans to be quite receptive to the single game a year they’re currently hosting, but it’s hard to tell whether that would change once the game is no longer a novelty under this proposed scenario. The NBA, which certainly appear to have a bigger following abroad than the NFL, has talked about European expansion for years. Still, that’s gone nowhere.
Then, there’s the matter of feasibility. Would the NFL do this through expansion? Would an existing team move to London? Remember, the NFL has committed to placing a team in Los Angeles, a higher-priority goal that still isn’t close to a resolution.
So, while this sounds like a nice idea in theory, there are real questions about whether it’s prudent and/or possible.
While in London, Kraft also spoke about another matter that will be of some interest to Bucs fans. He said bluntly that he has no interest in buying a soccer franchise in the English Premier League, as the Bucs’ owners have done with Manchester United.
“Manchester City won the championship this year and I hear they're going to lose $156 million,” he said, according to CNN.com. ''I would rather give that money to charity if I had it.
“I would only do it, if there was a salary cap,” added Kraft, who considered investing in Liverpool in 2010. “. . . The fans in Liverpool are awesome and they are expecting to win every year, and if you are competing with people who have different rules then it makes it difficult.”
The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, has had to make large expenditures on players to keep Man U competitive, but the franchise is considered the most valuable in the world. Its revenues are enormous, although this year’s reportedly dropped a bit.
Perhaps because of their unique revenue situation, the Glazers don’t have the same concerns as Kraft.