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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Thoughts on the NFL's Increasing Games in London

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The NFL has been increasing the number of games played in other countries. The Buffalo Bills "hosted" games in Toronto, Canada, between 2008 and 2012 with talk about expanding the number of these games or even moving the team there with the Bills' late owner Ralph Wilson. Following the 1/29/2013 preseason game the 2014 game was postponed for a year. On 10/2/2005 a regular season game was held in Mexico City, Mexico, between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. Prior to this season seven games have been held in Wembley Stadium in London.

And the talk continues about expansion. I have a problem with this and I am sure that I am not the only one.

First of all, NFL Europe (first dubbed The World League of American Football) operated on-and-off from 1991 until 6/29/2007 when it officially ended due to loss of funding, exhaustion of television partners, and a focus on Germany (five teams were in Germany, the other in Amsterdam). The "lack of pizzaz" in watching what were essentially glorified practice squads led to its demise.

In the 6/30/2007 New York Times, Richard Sandomir wrote:

If we can present two or three games a year, and fans are engaged in that experience, we will grow exponentially overseas,” Mark Waller, the senior vice president of NFL International, said by telephone from Frankfurt."

And then he wrote:

"Despite its domestic power, the N.F.L. has struggled to export its game."

(The full article can be found at:

And yet the NFL continues to promote the league overseas. I am going to focus upon London because that seems to be the place to play as of late. And for the record, I have nothing against the UK; after all, I am half-British.

Secondly, if I was still a season ticket-holder and one of my home games was to be played in London, thus causing me to miss one, I would be angry. But I gave up my season tickets because I couldn't afford them anymore. Which brings me to my third point...

How about the NFL lowers ticket prices so that middle-class America can attend games? After all, the fans in this country are what made the NFL as popular and successful as it has become.

But no, instead the league wants to promote games overseas because they can charge ridiculous amounts of money which people will pay. For the upcoming Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys game in London on 11/9/2014, tickets start at 39.4 British pounds, or $63.56 per ticket. Mind you, I said start at. The league non-premium ticket average in the US is currently $84.45 per ticket. Some teams, like the New England Patriots, charge $122 per ticket for non-premium seats.

Wembley Stadium holds 86,000 people for NFL games. Stadiums in the US range from TCF Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings) that holds 52,525 to FedEx Field (Washington Redskins) with a capacity of 85,000. However, many teams are experiencing broadcast blackouts due to undersold tickets (because they are too expensive). So instead of doing the right thing, the league seeks new paying customers elsewhere without so much as a thought about its existing fanbase.

We wonder why there is dwindling player loyalty in the NFL. It's all about the almighty dollar (which really isn't all that almighty anymore thanks to a ridiculous deficit and the gradual devaluation of our currency). Players will go to whichever team will pay them the most. Granted, there are several loyal players like Charles Tillman (Chi), Troy Polamalu (Pit), and Larry Fitzgerald (Ari), for example, who have been with their respective teams their entire careers; 12, 12, and 11 years, respectively.

Yet this is what the league is doing: selling out for the highest dollar. What kind of lesson does that teach?

Finally, the wear and tear on our players having to travel across several time zones (especially west coast teams who face an eight-hour time differential) can wreak havoc on their circadian rhythms: "the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment" (from the NIH article below).

"Circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions. They have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder."

(The full article on circadian rhythms from the NIH can be found at:

Therefore, those teams having to travel to London must adjust their body clocks to the new time zone, deal with jet lag, and then fly home and readjust so they are ready to play the following week according to their "normal" circadian rhythms. Granted, the NFL has said that it will likely schedule a bye week for those teams returning from London; however, the league already has enough trouble with scheduling (teams playing Monday night and then Thursday night, for example). Is this fair to these athletes? I don't think so. That the league wants to keep increasing the number of games played in London or possibly even having a regular team there is not a good idea; not to mention a colossal waste of money on overseas travel which is allegedly justified by the growing fan base outside of the US. 

While I am not completely averse to having games or teams in Canada (after all, the NHL and NBA operate in both countries), there is a huge difference between a 99.1 mile drive from Buffalo to Toronto and a 3,358 (from New York) to 5,478 (from San Diego) mile flight to London. And if they must play in London, schedule games during the preseason, but that won't fulfill the pizzaz factor that led to NFL Europe's demise.

Personally, if the NFL continues down this path of devaluing American fans then it should not be called the National Football League and I, for one, would withdraw my support: no more purchasing NFL merchandise or NFL Sunday Ticket for starters.


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