Thursday, July 21, 2011
Commish for a day: Put a team in London
By Pat Yasinskas
Our divisional bloggers discuss one thing they'd change as commissioner for a day:
All eight division bloggers get to play commissioner on Thursday.
We each get one wish, and since Roger Goodell has been more than a little busy with the labor situation, I’ll go ahead and jump forward on something he seems to have been dreaming about for quite some time. I’ll go ahead and put a team in London.
Yes, London. Not Los Angeles. The nation’s second-largest city last had the NFL in 1994. Through the years, there’s been steady talk of relocating a team to Los Angeles or putting an expansion team there. It hasn’t happened, and that’s not the NFL’s fault. It’s the fault of the local leaders. The league has made it clear that all Los Angeles (or one of its suburbs) needs is a modern stadium. Nobody’s been able to step up and make that happen. Forget Los Angeles. And while you’re at it, forget San Antonio and Toronto. San Antonio’s not all that big and Toronto already has a presence with the Buffalo Bills playing some home games in Canada, and their real home isn’t all that far away.
The Broncos and 49ers played last season at Wembley Stadium.
Goodell’s hinted at European expansion since he became commissioner. There have been regular-season games played in London the past three years, and the response has been outstanding. London -- and all of Europe, really -- represents an untapped market far bigger than anything Los Angeles, San Antonio or Toronto can offer.
Should the league put an expansion team in London? Well, you’d probably have to add a second expansion team to balance things out, and that might be difficult. It could mean a second team in Europe or maybe even Japan, and that would only complicate the logistics. On the plus side, the league could increase its revenue stream nicely by dividing up two expansion fees.
The other option is to move an existing team to London, and that might be the more realistic alternative at the moment. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been struggling to sell tickets for years, and the Minnesota Vikings have stadium issues.
Either one could be a viable candidate, but it’s not as simple as just moving one of them to London. The NFL has to think through the process very thoroughly. Visiting teams would need bye weeks after (or maybe even before) a London trip. Divisions might have to be realigned, and some measures would have to be taken to make sure the London team stays competitive.
That could mean some extended road trips to the United States, and the London team might need a regular or borrowed practice facility on this side of the Atlantic. But, once Goodell puts the labor situation behind him, he can start working on logistics for a London team.
Spacious Wembley Stadium is waiting. I’m sure the rest of the logistics in London can be worked out a lot faster than they’ve been moved on in Los Angeles.