The National Football League is seriously heading towards an expansion in London. The amazing success of the International Series established firmly on their calendar, and on the British sporting one as well, since 2007 has confirmed their initial thoughts that a franchise here would flourish.
Will it really be in the best interests of the NFL to award the British support with a team of it's own? Would they be reacting in a strike-it-while-then-iron-is-hot attitude?
The boom of the sport is no doubt bigger than what it was when the game was first exported back in the 1980's. This has been helped by the media boom, television, radio and the internet carry the game around the world like never before.
The United Kingdom fan base is a well educated one, and anyone new to the game is soon swept up in the tidal wave of excitement that the game generates,. The simple matter of knowing the rules comes later.
It's no surprise then that every year, for the past 6, the matches held at Wembley Stadium are sold out. Would this really hold up if they had a team to follow every other week? Right now you would have to say yes, season tickets would sell, and the rest snapped up quickly as the season goes on.
The vast majority of fans attending these games do so wearing the colours of the teams they already follow. Would these fans turn into dual fans and support London as well? So where would the loyal fan base be structured from? The die-hard fans would have real conflict if their now team would be pitted against the new expansion set-up.
Is Wembley the right place for a the team to play? Given that the National Stadium is owned by the Football Association, any scheduling would have to be viewed by them first as International soccer fixtures occur around September and October, sometimes November. Other venues could be used as a permanent home, such as the Olympic Stadium, but very soon this could be confirmed as the new home of West Ham United, causing more fixture headaches.
The logistics of the teams coming to play isn't a problem, given that it's been likened to an East coast team playing on the West side of America. Teams visiting now have the luxury of a bye week after the game. That luxury couldn't be used after every teams visit as the season runs into the latter part of the year and all the teams play every weekend.
New players being drafted form colleges around the States, happily move from one side of the country to the other, to play for their new employees. Can we expect them to suddenly uproot everything they know and live in a new country? the same could be said of any player being traded, veteran players may well like the idea of playing abroad in the twilight of their careers, but will their families enjoy that uprooting of everything they've built around them.
There is one argument that could be used against most of this, and that is NFL Europe/World League. The London Monarchs were a very successful team in it's short lived time, attracting huge loyal crowds. They had a nomadic existence though, Wembley, Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge, and White Hart Lane home of Tottenham Hotspur were used as attendances started to dwindle. The league served as great for its purpose, mainly for players who had maybe missed out in the draft or had been released by NFL teams. The best example of this is quarterback Kurt Warner, who after a year with the Amsterdam Admirals, came back to the NFL to win a Superbowl with the St.Louis Rams.
Lastly, expansion is probably the only way forward as the handful of teams that seem unsettled are negotiating new stadium deals. The big question that will have most people baffled is how can the NFL expand into Europe, when they don't even have a franchise in Los Angeles.