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Chris Richardson
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Chris Richardson

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London Football a Foggy Idea


Growing up as an Air Force brat in England during the 80s, professional football -- the American version -- was never a primary sport of mine until I returned to the United States. Despite the fact I'm aging myself here, I didn't see my first live Super Bowl until the Chicago Bears/New England Patriots beatdown of 1986. With the time differential, the game wasn't over until around midnight, if not a little later.

With that in mind, the idea of the NFL catching on as anything other than a novelty item seems far-fetched. Considering the British started televising the Super Bowl on a live feed in 1985 (I believe), and since that time, ventures like NFL Europe have tried and failed completely, I'd say the NFL will remain little more than an oddity. Sure, the regular season games played across the pond gives Londonites something to do on a Sunday evening, and I have no doubt there are British fans who follow NFL teams, but that's not quite the same as embracing the league as their own.

Besides, our British neighbors already have a love for football. It's just not the same kind being promoted by Roger Goodell and company.

Not only would the NFL be competing with the EPL -- which absolutely stinks of failure - there's also the matter of England's World Cup team. As long as these loves dominate the British psyche, the NFL will remain an also-ran. Granted, that might be a little hard for us "Yanks" to comprehend, considering our nationwide love for professional football, but that's just the way things are.

American football in England is a lot like soccer in America. Sure, there is some interest, but I don't think we'll live long enough to see the day the MLS becomes more popular the NHL, let alone the NFL. Or do we need to watch another version of the London Monarchs fail before we are convinced?

In fact, I'm not sure the now-annual trip the London is even worth the effort. It takes away a home game from one of the teams, while forcing the players to be ambassadors for a sport that's not highly sought after to begin with. When you take into account the level of interest the game in Mexico had in 2005 -- the game set an attendance record of over 100,000 fans -- it makes the trip the England seem even more like a waste of time.

Memo to Roger Goodell: Instead of trying to force your product on a country that's already happy with their national sport, why not export it to a country that actually wants to see it?

By Chris Richardson  |  October 23, 2009; 11:53 AM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots , Roger Goodell , Tampa Bay Buccaneers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Good Move, Goodell | Next: Vamanos, Amigos!


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I mostly agree with this, save the botched "football = soccer" metaphor. Soccer is much more popular in the US than our football is in England. Consider the fact that MLS is doing alright (better TV deal than the NHL, for example), despite getting somewhere less than half of our country's soccer fans to care. Soccer might not be poised to conquer the US (the idea of which has always been a strawman), but there is a large market for the game here nonetheless. American football in the UK, on the other hand, is merely an oddity.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | October 24, 2009 3:03 AM

I agree: us Brits are vaguely curious about US football - but no more than that. And don't forget rugby: it's faster and more flowing than your football (none of those five-minute breaks to decide what to do next) and doesn't have the cissy padding and helmets - but it still loses out to 'soccer'.

Posted by: sids | October 24, 2009 5:24 AM

Well, there is certainly no way that US football can ever have the popularity and structure of English football, with a hierarchy from the Premier league down to pub teams, and with the chance of a pub team someday making it to the top. Still, as a niche sport attracting 80,000 people to Wembley Stadium 10 times a year, it is at least possible. it is a beautiful facility and had all the club seats and suites that the NFL would want.

Posted by: ggreenbaum | October 24, 2009 11:17 AM

Brits invented soccer and exported it all over the world. Soccer rules are pretty simple. All you need is a ball to have fun. American football is more difficult and it requires more equipment.

Posted by: draiscl | October 24, 2009 8:08 PM

Russia, India, Africa are ideal for U.S. Football. Manufacture the helmets and pads in China so you can outfit a player safely for no more than $50 U.S.

U.S. Football is a great game, probably the best sport every invented.

Posted by: chris3 | October 25, 2009 3:41 AM

I don't know about people here not wanting to see it. Everytime my hubby wears his Romo jersey around London, people comment on it. If they fill a stadium every time the NFL comes then someone must be interested. Sure it will never be as popular as their "football", but I think Brits are branching out and liking it!

Posted by: redsmom3 | October 25, 2009 7:14 PM

Poor, poor article.

Firstly, gridiron has been on television here in Britain since 1982, and was well established by 1985.

Secondly, the NFL has many fans in Britain. Just like 2007 and 2008, this years game in London sold out in less than an hour?. SIX MINUTES to be exact!.

And Wembley yet again was full (84000), and that almost a MILLION people applied for tickets?.

Yes, we care so little that the game was shown on two TV channels and was live on BBC radio!.

As I said, very poor article.

Posted by: ayrshireman | October 26, 2009 6:04 AM

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