New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was in London recently promoting his teams October matchup with the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium. He told the media that he wants to see an NFL team in London within the next ten years. Kraft's Patriots have been to six Super Bowls since he became owner but his logic leaves much to be desired.
We Have Markets Here
Kraft's desire is understandable considering the enthusiasm generated by previous games in London. The fact of the matter is, those fans were likely all of the NFL fans in London. There simply isn't enough interest to consider opening up a market there, not to mention the fact that there are places to open markets on this side of the Atlantic. The NFL should extend in Los Angeles and Toronto before they venture into Europe.
They Have Their Football
There's the fact that England and, really, the rest of the world, has football of their own. It's called football. Trying to ship the NFL to England is like them trying to expand the Barclays Premier League here. Sure there are some fans, but it will ultimately fall on its face. This isn't to say that a London team wouldn't work. Having a home team usually gives fans a reason to follow a sport, but I'm just not sure if there's enough interest yet.
Racking Up Miles
The logistics are just painfully bad. As the Patriots probably know by now, a flight from Boston to London is about seven hours, or about the length of a flight from Boston to San Diego. This isn't so bad, but the Patriots are geographically the closest team to London, so seven hours would be the shortest flight possible to get there. In addition, the London players would be constantly jetlagged on the road and at home, the road teams would be jetlagged as the time difference on the east coast is five hours and on the west coast is eight hours. At least they'd rack up the most frequent flyer miles in the league.
What's wrong with having a sport that's dominated by the US? Why can't we keep the NFL? American football was never going to be soccer or basketball, and it probably never will be. More importantly, the NFL is as American as apple pie and muscle cars. Thanksgiving now evokes images of happy families around a table with a big turkey, and a bunch of guys drinking beer around a television watching the football game. What would Thanksgiving day football mean to Englanders? As long as non-US teams are a minority, the culture around the NFL won't change and it'd just be awkward.
In summary, London doesn't need a franchise, London probably doesn't want a franchise and the whole idea is a logistical nightmare, and the players in London would lose the will to live.
There is validity to the argument for a team in London, as there would probably be a small, dedicated fan base that would grow in London and people would follow the league. It would further the NFL nameplate in Europe and maybe develop interest for the sport there. However, we have too many elements of our country's culture intertwined with the NFL for it not to be an awkward and tumultuous expansion.