There was a time when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would champion the "demand for more football" when discussing the possibility of an 18-game season. But with that tabled indefinitely, those talking points have now been applied to expanding the game internationally. Specifically, putting a team in Europe.
“We couldn't be happier with what we're seeing,” Goodell told reporters Thursday, via PFT. “We actually couldn't be more surprised by the tremendous demand for NFL football in London, in the UK in general, and frankly in Europe. So it's not something that I think is 15 or 20 years away. It could be five or 10 years away.”
The NFL has played regular-season games in London since 2007, but a permanent franchise makes long-term sense, according to Goodell.
“The fans want to see more NFL football, and they want to see the real thing,” the commissioner said. “They don't want to see the ‘friendlies' as they call them over there, which is preseason games. So we changed our strategy eight years ago and said, ‘Let's play regular season games.' And our clubs have responded very favorably. They've enjoyed the experience. So we're anxious to do more of it. I see us continuing to play more games there, to focus on our television coverage there and expanding that, our other business efforts including licensing and sponsorship.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is also a proponent of overseas expansion, telling those same reporters, "I can see the kind of reception we got there (when the Patriots played in London in 2012). ... I would not be disappointed, and I would also believe that we should work hard to try and have a franchise in London before the decade was out."
But last month, Steelers president Art Rooney II was less excited about possibility of a team calling London home, even if it seems inevitable.
“We're still a little ways away from deciding whether we can locate a team there, but so far so good," he said. "I'm not necessarily sold on the idea that we need to have a team there to be successful ... Unless someone brings back the Concorde.”
Right, the logistical hurdles, with travel schedules and tax rates chief among them.
But as La Canfora wrote in June 2013, "A London team can easily maintain a U.S. office for some football operations people, where they can conduct player workouts and tryouts in-season, perhaps even maintain a developmental squad based there (and in this day and age, the coach back in London could easily watch a Tuesday tryout in real time over a laptop)."
As momentum builds for a team based outside the United States, the question isn't if it will happen but when.