For all the talk about concussions and head injuries, the NFL has another ongoing discussion on its hands: the viability of having an NFL franchise across the pond.
“I think that there’s a small group of owners that, to be blunt, swing an awfully big stick with the league, that are leaders in the league, that view London as a legacy thing,” NFL Network reporter Albert Breer said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They view London as part of (their) contribution to the league, that we’re going to be the first American League to put a team overseas. You agree that it may be more feasible in football because you’re not playing every two or three days like you are in basketball or hockey and you’re not playing every day like you are in baseball. But there are certainly logistical problems. Look, they tried to get a fourth game over there this year. Now the problem was they couldn’t find a fifth team to give up an extra home game. That was one issue there were scheduling conflicts. But they really wanted to put a fourth game in London, and until about a week ago, it was a very distinct possibility. That’s moving closer to eight games. Once you have eight games, that’s a full home schedule.
“I still think that the logistics are an issue and you’re going to have to find a way to work some of those out,” Breer continued. “I think during the season you could probably manage it, but what happens if Seattle is playing against London in the Wild Card round of the playoffs and they’re at London. Now you’re talking about a one-off situation in the playoffs with a 12-hour flight. So I think that there are certain issues there that you’ve got to find a way to solve, and those aren’t going to be easy to solve. There are going to have to be advances with travel, which is why the NFL actually met with airline officials earlier this year (to look) at what’s coming. What do we have ahead of us so maybe we can meet our stated goal of getting a team in London by 2022? The other possibility, and I don’t believe in this one, is the idea of a shared franchise.”
This would involve a team representing two cities – Jacksonville and London, for example – and playing four home games in each site.
“It’s really hard for me to see that working,” Breer said. “I personally think you’d probably alienate both fan bases. What are they really? And that team is kind of really playing 12 road games.”
Putting a team in Mexico makes more logistical sense than putting a team in London, but the money – not to mention security – would be greater in Europe. Either way, the majority of NFL owners are not desperate to put a franchise in a foreign country.
“Put it this way: I think there are probably more owners that are neutral on it more than anything,” Breer said. “I think the group of owners that would be very much for it is probably bigger than the group that would be very much against it, if that makes sense. So I think the majority of the league is probably kind of in the phase where it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’d be kind of cool, but we got to examine it.’”