This notion of one team playing a home game in London every year is hardly new. In 2009, Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Football Night in America reported that one team could be sent to London every year, in order to allow the development of a London fan base for that team.
In early 2010, NFL Chief Marketing Officer Mark Waller explained the purpose of having the same team return to London. “[What] we learned in the U.K. and Mexico and Canada is ultimately you get fans, and to develop that into avid fans . . . they have to have a team to root for, a team to love, the way you do that is to have enough games so one team can come back on a regular basis,” Waller told Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. “If you only have one game and different teams every year, it’s not enough.”
Earlier this year, however, we reported that the Bucs’ decision to host two home games in London in three years won’t be a precursor to a move, in part because it would take Tampa out of the loose Super Bowl rotation.
But if one team is going to play a home game in London every year and if the league ever plans to send a team to London on a full-time basis, how can the team that moves to London not be the team that has been playing there every year? Failure to move that team would be the ultimate tease, especially if the plan indeed results in the creation of a throng of British Bucs fans.
Besides, the NFL’s new reality will mandate shifting teams to the places where the people — and thus the money — reside. Markets that can’t or won’t support a team will lose that team to a market that can and will, and London may have the population base to fill a stadium on a weekly basis. The challenge is to give fans there a reason to show up every week. Giving them a team to fall in love with is the first step.