As the NFL gets ready to stage one of three 2014 regular-season games in London, the man in charge of the league’s efforts to grow the game in other countries addressed the challenges of moving a team to London permanently.
Mark Waller, the new executive V.P., international, appeared via phone from London on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live to address all aspects of the ongoing London experiment.
A debate (not quite spirited, but ultimately instructive) emerged on the logistical challenges of relocating a franchise to England. My concern: To make a team competitive in England, the NFL will have to give that team a separate set of rules. And those special rules could end up prompting fans of other teams to cry foul when the London team begins to thrive.
Waller eventually acknowledged that, if a move can’t practically be accomplished, the league could expand its presence to eight games per year involving different teams.
Waller also discussed the NFL’s new deal with Sky Sports, which televises the games in England — and which has agreed as part of a new five-year extension to promote the NFL as heavily as it promotes other premier sports properties. Per Waller, roughly 400,000 viewers per week watch the featured game of the week on Sky Sports. While not a huge number, the audience for a Premier League game usually hovers, per Waller, in the range of two million.
Beyond staging NFL games in other countries, Waller and the NFL realize that more must be done to increase participation in football beyond the borders of the U.S.A. That’s part of what Waller will be doing as he embarks on the challenge of continuing to export the new American pastime.
The entire interview appears below. If you’re wondering at all about the NFL’s long-term plans in London, it’s worth a listen.