By Liz Bhandari // @NFLGirlUK
About the author: Liz Bhandari is an NFL writer, podcaster, and blogger based out of Manchester, England. She is the host of the popular podcast @GridironWine and is the event planner for #NFLUKFanMeetUp events.
Last week, rumours circulated around the Los Angeles Chargers being linked with a move to London. It was very quickly denied by the owner, Dean Spanos who said he has no intention of moving the franchise to London despite reports of a potential relocation. The best part though was their social media team’s reaction and reference to the iconic scene in Wolf of Wall Street where Leonardo Di Caprio’s character Jordan Belfort tells the office, “I ain’t f****** leaving!”.
This year as part of the International Series in London, the NFL held games for the first time at the football (soccer) stadium for Tottenham Hotspur. It is the first-ever stadium outside of the United States to be purpose-built for American Football. So it begs the question, is the UK ready to have its own permanent NFL franchise?
Well, there’s a lot that is involved in such a move, and a million and one questions to consider. Ok so that’s a slight exaggeration, but the fact of the matter is, it isn’t as straight forward as just choosing to move a team, picking them up, and moving them.
As a season ticket holder at both Wembley and Tottenham, I must say that there were two home games that genuinely felt like home games, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Los Angeles Rams. As you’ll be aware when the games come to visit London, there are fans from all 32 teams represented. You won’t just see the home and away jerseys.
One question that seems to be a concern is attendance at games. Well, for the past few years the UK has consistently sold out 80,000 and 60,000 capacity stadiums. Something some teams in the U.S. struggle to fill. However, that has been for three to four games. Whereas, it would be eight games.
I travel a couple of hundred miles to get to the games in London, so it involves train fare, hotels and then eating meals out. It can get very expensive, and that’s before the tickets are bought. That said though, it is worth mentioning there had been a saga with the tickets this season, and many of Wembley tickets were on websites like StubHub for as little as £8!
So then I have to think, could I realistically afford to be a season ticket holder? Absolutely not, and I’d also be exhausted going back and forth between Manchester and London. I also met a lot of fans who traveled from all over Europe to attend these games, there are also a large number of traveling fans who come over from America too. Would people do that for every game? I’m not so sure. So the next question is, are there enough fans in London to sustain it? I’m also not sure!
We have the stadium, but say we DO have the fans to sustain it, and everything is possible for the move. How would it actually work? Would we have to move the divisions around? Would players live in both the UK and the USA? As boring as it is, there are serious tax implications involved in this. How would the schedule work?t The travel will be exhausting for both sides, and I’m not sure eight consecutive home games followed by eight consecutive away games would be fair.
There is so much more to think about than just moving a team. I love the idea of more American Football here in the UK, but at the same time, I worry that if it fails, would we lose having any games altogether? I’d rather we stick with a concept that works, 3-4 games of differing teams. How about you?
Follow Liz on Twitter at @NFLGirlUK
Find her podcast at @GridironWine