This weekend at Wembley Stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Minnesota Vikings in yet another NFL game hosted at the home of England’s national team.
Two NFL games will be played each year from now until 2016, and many expect more games to follow.
And many others believe the increased NFL games in London will eventually yield an NFL Franchise, and the English Football Association would be more than okay with that.
Roger Maslin, the managing director of Wembley, had this to say in a recent interview.
“We’d have to look very carefully at the calendar and make sure we have the right balance. Football is our priority but yes, I’m absolutely confident that if [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell wanted to have a franchise here, we could absolutely deliver on it.”
Squeezing in eight NFL games to Wembley’s yearly schedule should be no problem at all. Both the Steelers vs. Vikings game on Sunday and Jacksonville Jaguars against San Franscisco 49ers in October sold out within hours, and the FA’s eyes are lighting up as to the financial gains of a potential franchise in England’s capital.
You see, for all of Wembley’s grandeur and vast acres of glimmering glass concourses, the place is still a drag on finances, with almost $400 million of structured debt left to pay. Having an NFL franchise present will help pay off the bills and enable the English FA to invest their money elsewhere. But should the NFL really be helping England’s national governing body do that?
It may sit uneasy with some Americans.
Anyway, apart from England internationals, which will usually be on a Friday, Saturday or Tuesday, there are no real fixtures conflicts at Wembley as the 90,000 capacity stadium goes unused for vast swathes of the winter. Even the Capital One League Cup wouldn’t clash. Any other event at the famous North London venue can be placed around NFL games.
It can work. And it sounds like the FA and those running Wembley want it to.
Of course, they need an NFL franchise first. But if London were somehow awarded a team, they don’t want to stop there. Maslin and Wembley’s other directors think they are in a great position to bid for the SuperBowl… should the NFL ever choose to host it outside the US.
I’m unsure whether that will ever happen, but London would surely be the best option if it does. But should fans of US sports, the NFL and U.S. national team feel a little uneasy about the NFL’s money directly benefiting the English national team and the organization that runs it?
Perhaps. Just throwing it out there.