As the Vikings and Steelers prepared to play last Sunday in Wembley Stadium, the periodic reports and speculation of the potential relocation of a franchise to London naturally emerged. When the Jaguars and 49ers head there later this month (assuming the Jags don’t simply fold up shop after what happens to them at Denver in 11 days), those same stories likely will once again bubble up.
But as the NFL continues to dangle the carrot of a full-time team in London, there’s one important point to keep in mind. The players believe they have the ability to block it.
More than a few players have said they’d quit football before playing for a London-based NFL team. (Though we doubt that would happen, it definitely would make it harder to lure free agents.) Per a league source, all players possibly would have the ability to block the move, through their union.
The NFLPA believes that the league can’t move a team to London without approval from the union. The NFLPA regards the change in workplace conditions to be a mandatory subject of bargaining, which means that the NFL would have to raise it with the union and the two sides would have to come to some sort of an agreement regarding the concessions the league will make in order to permit a team to move to London.
It’s possible that the NFLPA simply will never agree to a London move. If the board of player representatives and the union’s Executive Committee realize that any of them could be traded to the London team, or could have a London-based team as their only option for ongoing NFL employment via free agency, keeping a team out of London would keep that from ever happening.
The union, we’re told, has no objection to the current approach, which entails exporting two games per year to London. (By next year, it could be three.) But there will become a point — presumably when one team starts playing more than one game per year in London — when the union reminds the league that the NFLPA has direct say over whether the London experiment will become something more than a small smattering of games played there.