The NFL’s plans to play a game in China have run into some stumbling blocks.
Despite reports that the Rams and 49ers would play in China in 2018, NFL Executive V.P. of International Mark Waller told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com that there’s probably more work to do than can be done in two years.
“I would say there’s a low likelihood of it happening,” Waller said. “But we’re working hard to see if we can make it work.”
There are major logistical challenges to flying the Rams and 49ers 13 hours to Beijing, having them spend a week practicing and playing in a country with a 15-hour time difference, then having them fly back and get ready to play another game. It’s also still unclear what time of day a game in China would be played, as the league would want it to be on at a good time for both Chinese fans to attend and American fans to watch. And it’s still unclear whether there’s enough of a fan base in China to sell out a stadium.
“When do the teams get back? How do you schedule them? Does it affect the teams coming back?” Waller said. “If we want to do this in China, it has to be a good time for Chinese fans, but also so that U.S. fans can watch. And we want to make sure we can keep growing it.”
The NFL may have already grown as popular as it’s going to get in the United States, and so the owners want to grow the sport internationally. That might eventually involve playing games in China, but it may still be a few more years before that can happen.