Robert Kraft has raised a few eyebrows by once again bringing up the idea of placing an NFL franchise in London.
Kraft is in London on a promotional tour for the NFL’s international series. He spoke with Neil Reynolds of Sky Sports about future possibilities in the UK.
“I personally think we should have a franchise in London and that is something I am going to push for,” Kraft said. “I think I said that the last time we were over here in 2009 and before this next decade is out, I hope we have a team here. I think that would be right for the NFL and this fan base has proven they deserve it.
“I think we’re starting to tap out in the United States. If you look at the last Super Bowl we were in this past season, we had over 180 million people watching – that’s almost two thirds of America. So for us to grow the game, we have to expand globally. Having seen the kind of support we have received here in London, it is the intention of the NFL owners to get two games here, starting next year.
“The only bad part of putting a franchise in London is that I can assure you it won’t be the Patriots who are moving here.”
Kraft explained: “We lobbied hard to come back after having such a good experience in 2009. We would love to be the permanent visiting team. It was good for team bonding and everyone really enjoyed our last trip to London.
“I’m really proud that we’re the number one-supported team in the UK and have been for close to a decade. In the last few years that support has been enhanced. We have a thriving Patriots UK Fan Club and they come across the pond every year and attend a game. We love our brothers and sisters over here in the UK.”
My gut reaction is this: Kraft was on a promotional tour, and he was doing his part as a promotional spokesperson: he was telling the people what they wanted to hear.
Yes it is true that the U.S. market is nearing its saturation point. However there are other alternative markets for a team that have yet to be exploited, such as Los Angeles, Mexico City and Toronto that logistically make much more sense.
There is the elephant in the room on this topic: logistics. For years now we have come to the conclusion that crossing three time zones to play a game is a difficult factor to overcome in the NFL. If that is the case then what effect will of traveling across as many as eight time zones to play a game? And what about fielding a team? How many free agents are going to want to move there? I suppose you could set up offices and facilities in the US and fly there to play the game, but that’s going to make marketing the team and the game rather difficult.
Aside from that I truly question whether there is enough fan support to move a team there on a full-time permanent basis. It is one thing to fill a stadium with fans for an event that occurs once a year; it is another to expect demand to be great enough for that to happen for ten games annually.
I have no doubt that playing in London is a financial windfall for the teams that play there. If the NFL is intent on expanding revenue (which I am sure they are, just like any other business) then how about adding a second game, and seeing how that goes?
If the Patriots were to become an annual visitor to London as the visiting team as part of the international series then as a fan I would have no issue with that, even if it meant as an out of town fan that I would occasionally miss the opportunity to see them play. But placing a franchise in London?
Just say no.
While on the subject of the business side of the sports business, check this out: CBS has already sold 80% of the available advertising time for next year’s Super Bowl.
At a price of $3.8 million per 30 second ad time.
“The game has moved early,” said John Bogusz, executive vice president of sales and marketing for CBS Sports. “We’re certainly well ahead of where we were three years ago [the last time CBS carried the game].”
The pace of CBS’s ad sales offers further evidence that the Super Bowl selling season has moved earlier than ever. Three years ago, for example, CBS went into September with a lot of inventory left to sell. But for the past three years, networks had completed the bulk of their ad sales in early summer, just after the upfront selling season.
CBS’s $3.8 million rate marks a nearly 9 percent increase from last year, when NBC sold the game for $3.5 million per 30-second spot, according to several advertising executives — both buyers and sellers — with knowledge of the rate.
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