Bucs' London decision sent quiet message

January, 21, 2012
1/21/12
1:01
PM ET
When I read the story Friday about the St. Louis Rams agreeing to play a home game in London each of the next three seasons, I couldn’t help but think how it could have been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

They had been the team that had appeared ticketed for an annual overseas game. They played in London in October and had played there in 2009. In the past, Commissioner Roger Goodell had said the Bucs had expressed interest in playing an annual game.

But, very quietly, Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said that interest had disappeared. During the news conference to announce the firing of coach Raheem Morris in early January, Glazer let it be known that the Bucs had informed the league they didn’t want to “host’’ London games in the foreseeable future. He didn’t go into much detail on the rationale and only made passing mention of having goals to achieve in Tampa that were more important than going overseas.

[+] EnlargeLondon
Kyle Terada/US PresswireKellen Winslow and the Buccaneers played the Bears in London's Wembley Stadium in October.
So the Rams have taken the plunge. Like the Bucs, they’re a team whose owner also has an English soccer team. Rams owner Stan Kroenke owns Arsenal, while the Glazer family owns Manchester United. Like the Bucs, who have struggled with home attendance in recent years, the Rams are a team that has faced some speculation about their long-term future in their home city.

The Rams just threw some more gas on that fire. But the more I think about Glazer’s brief remarks about pulling out of consideration for London trips, the more I view it as a way for the Buccaneers to put out some flames in Tampa Bay and that’s a good thing.

Let’s be real honest. For many reasons, some which I understand and some I don’t, the Glazers aren’t very popular with the Tampa Bay fan base. People say the Glazers don’t care about the Bucs or their fans.

But I think the move to pull out of London games is evidence to the contrary. When the Bucs were going to London, they liked to talk about building their international fan base. When they pulled out, I think they were quietly admitting they’re focusing on their local fan base.

Sometime during the season, the Bucs sent out surveys to their season-ticket holders. The surveys asked a lot of questions about many different topics. But one strong message that came back to the Glazers was that their local fans didn’t like the team playing in London and fans didn’t like giving up a home game.

I think that’s the major reason why the Bucs withdrew from consideration for future trips. They know they’ve got attendance issues to fix and satisfying the fans is one way to move in that direction. They also ended speculation the team eventually would move to London on a permanent basis.

It’s a small step in the right direction. But, in this case, I think the Bucs at least showed they’re listening to their fans. There is a lot more work to be done before the Glazers and the Bucs are truly embraced by the Tampa Bay community.

Spending a little money on free agency would be a much bigger step and would excite the fans much more. So would hiring a new coach, preferably before February rolls around.

But whether people realize it or not, I think when Glazer said the Bucs had changed their tune on London, it was a message from One Buccaneer Place that the team is at least starting to work toward patching things up with its fans. Let the Rams be the ones to go international and deal with the domestic consequences.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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