The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Three Steps for Spreading the NFL Gospel


You can't just dip your toe in the water.

This weekend's NFL game in England features the Patriots and the Buccaneers. It is the most recent edition of the NFL's attempt to spread "American Football" worldwide. Unlike soccer, our game of football is uniquely American and a great property; however to spread the game worldwide, as is the hope of the NFL, concerted and immediate action is not just necessary -- it is imperative.

There are three major components required to breakthrough the "other" football's stranglehold on the rest of the world's sporting population. The NFL has to make a concerted effort to attract the world's youth to the game, it has to place teams in local markets and it will have to overcome the world's anti-American prejudices. These are all possible, but will take effort, resources, commitment and time.

One common excuse for not loving football is the lack of knowledge and education about the game. Starting with youth is critical. Adults tend to watch and support the sports that they grew up playing and adoring. The majority of the NFL's American fanbase grew up playing, cheering and participating in football from an early age. Most fans understand the game and enjoy watching the intricate points that make the game so unique and special. The NFL must work to teach and spread the game at a grass roots level worldwide. This will not only require a commitment from the owners and the league, but its players, both current and former. Young people must be exposed to the game to create more adult fans next decade.

Fans of all sports are inherently passionate about rooting for any team that bears their hometown's name. While a casual fan will watch the Bucs and the Pats play, they will cheer and ardently root for a team sporting their town's name on their helmets and jerseys. It is critical that the fans have their own teams to cheer for and support. This factor also goes hand in hand with the need for local and homegrown talented players playing for the local teams. The more kids that grow up and play the game and then make it to the professional ranks will only support and reinforce these local feelings for the game, teams and players. The Canadian Football League has mandatory minimum salary requirements for local teams to bolster their homegrown talent. This will be a critical component for the NFL as well.

The last component is overcoming the world's subtle anti-American biases. The world's name for the game is "American Football" which by title indicates a truly American game. The game includes many uniquely American qualities that tend to exclude or turn off European fans by this fact alone. Our recent foreign policy travesties and arrogant positions have not helped in lessening these attitudes and beliefs. It will take more than just goodwill and positive PR to overcome years of acting like the ugly Americans abroad. The NFL can make concerted efforts by enlisting the aid of its current and former players to assist in the grass roots building efforts necessary to assist in growing the game. All people so fortunate to benefit and play in the NFL need to assist whenever and wherever possible to build the game from the bottom up. This also will not happen over night, it will take time and energy, but it can be done. Players have to take the time out of their busy schedules to make trips all across the world in order to spread the gospel and joys of "American Football."

If all three of these components happen on a consistent basis for at least the next decade, then American Football may just actually achieve a toehold in the rest of the world. It won't happen overnight with immediate returns, but the results will be well worth the investments.

By Peter Schaffer  |  October 24, 2009; 12:48 AM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots , Reader Poll , Tampa Bay Buccaneers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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we all know Europeans are racist in general and don't like blacks.. (they throw bannanas on the field during soccer matches).. how they gonna deal with 2/3 of the players being bruthas..

F's a dying continent.(declining birth rates, socialism, etc..)

Posted by: ObamaisFraud | October 24, 2009 9:04 PM

It's ironic to try to combat anti-American bias with a sport where players fly thru the air like missiles, their helmets like cannonballs inflicting maximum harm on their opponents, and where paralysis is the specter watching over every play. In foreign NFL countries, this will reinforce rather than lessen the image of the US as a violence-obsessed society. (Don't get me wrong, I love the game. As a NY Jets fan, I'm entitled to be schizophrenic. And I would like to see the dengerous hitting reduced somehow.)

Posted by: chaszzzzz | October 25, 2009 10:40 AM

obamaisfraud, I bet they'd personally avoid antagonizing a 350lb defensive lineman. 160lb "foward" might be a different story for the tough-guy Europeans out there. :)

Posted by: chris3 | October 25, 2009 4:31 PM

Not liking American football is not necessarily the same thing as being anti-American. Do Mr Schaffer and other American sports enthusiasts go wild about our games of cricket or rugby? If they are not interested in learning or taking on our sports does that mean they are anti-British?

Mr Schaffer, you Americans misread any criticisms of your cultural practices from those of us in the rest of the world as ‘anti-American’. Your fragile egos can be so easily bruised, no matter how heavy the kit you require your gridiron players wear. The links to the article/blog you reference convey little if nothing about anti-American sentiments. The culture of your game is just not interesting to most of us. Full stop.

A game with highly-paid big boys that need to have their testosterone levels milked and stroked for 3+ hours in public view by American professional cheerleaders just so they can propel their team balls down a pitch and through a goal post is, well, a waste of time if not sophomoric. Our rugby players go at it in just 80-minutes without wearing fussy armour, sans the cheerleaders whose hair, make-up and outfits wouldn’t survive our weather. You need to ask your colleagues in the NFL industry why you feel so compelled to proselytise other cultures with an American-specific sport. The message of your gospel and the joy you and your fans derive from it gets lost in translation in the parallel world that exists between our two countries. Especially when those such as yourself, Tom Hicks and George Gillett have failed to understand and accept how the ‘uniquely American qualities’ to the game and culture of your business schemes and practices have little, really, to do with America’s dismal, isolationist, political foreign policies. It’s nothing personal.

Well, it might help a bit if you stop calling your baseball’s World Series the World Series. Now that is a global joke!

Posted by: querious7 | October 25, 2009 6:44 PM

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