The NFL has been hinting for years at the placement of a team in London. For the first time ever, the league has hinted at the possibility for a four-team division based in Europe.
And this one didn’t come from some mid-level executive whose extemporaneous remark will later be walked back by 345 Park Avenue. Commissioner Roger Goodell made the statement himself, earlier today in London.
“There’s no question that London could support not just one franchise, I think two franchises,” Goodell began. “I really believe that.”
The fact that London has two NFL-ready stadiums proves that, if/when a team moves to London, it will be two, not one. Just like the league did when it returned to L.A.
But then the Commissioner took it another step. After Neil Reynolds jokingly asked for a European division, Goodell made it clear that the possibility is no joke.
“That’s part of what we’re doing, right?” Goodell said. “We’re trying to sort of see, could you have multiple locations in Europe where you could have an NFL franchise? Because it would be easier as a division.”
It would be easier as a division because those teams would play each other, twice per year. That’s twelve games per season that would be played among the European teams, without any of them having to travel to the U.S., and without having any U.S. teams having to travel to them.
Of course, there would still be plenty of trans-Atlantic travel. The European teams would otherwise host five or six (depending on the year) non-European teams, and they would play six or five (depending on the year) games in the U.S.
Travel is just one of the various issues to be resolved, when it comes to putting teams in Europe. Plenty of players won’t want to play there. Many free agents will target domestic markets. Some draft picks may even be inclined to refuse to sign with a team in London or Germany or wherever.
Still, it feels like an inevitability that teams will be headquartered in London and possibly beyond. But while it’s no longer a matter of “if,” the “when” remains clearly unresolved.
The “who” will be an interesting issue as well. The four teams have to come from somewhere. So either current NFL cities will be losing their teams, or the NFL will be expanding to as many as 36 franchises.
And here’s where I gratuitously point out that these are among the issues addressed in Playmakers. Available wherever you buy your books. Or at your local library. But do you really want to read a book someone else has taken into their bathroom?