Under the L.A. and London Lights

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London and L.A: two big cities, two huge markets. This is most likely the main reason Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, aspires to add teams to both. It makes sense, too, at least in theory. L. A. is the second largest market in the U.S., and London is one of the largest British markets. L.A. has many sports teams, including 4 teams in basketball, and baseball. A move to London will spur international support, possibly in an attempt to have football compete with soccer for the world’s most popular sport.

L.A. seems like it would be logical and easy. However, finding a team that wants to move to L.A, and a team that L.A. wants, could prove more difficult. The only teams that would be likely to move are teams struggling in their current market, and possibly looking for a new fan base. Perfect examples of this are the Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders.  Of these, the Oakland raiders make the most sense. They entertained a meager 73% of capacity at home in 2011, worst in the NFL. Not to mention that their loyalist fan base is often considered some of the least classy fans in all of Sports.

But even if the Raiders move, will they find support in the city of Fairweather fans— the same fans that just recently found out they’ve had a hockey team when the Kings finally won the Stanley cup a few years back? Oakland doesn’t contain much talent to draw viewership. Besides an inconsistently electric Terelle Pryor, and a injury-prone McFadden, the raiders are made up of some stone-handed receivers, and a lackluster defense. They already had a short 12 year stint in Los Angeles starting in the 80’s where they enjoyed some short success, followed by a decline in performance, viewership and fan base. Without much stardom, and no chance at a Super Bowl contention, not much may change if they were to have a next time around in L.A.  Regardless, a move to the City of Angels couldn’t possibly harm the organization any more than Al Davis’s less than stellar draft picks already have. If the league is looking to add a team to L.A., the best options are the raiders or one or possibly two expansion teams.

Although the prospect of a team in London sounds awesome, the forecast is doubtful at least for the next few years. The NFL has been testing the waters of this market for a couple of years. They have slowly upped the amount of overseas games from one in 2007 to three in 2014 and the  outpour of support from London has been optimistic. Wembley has sold out every game with an impressive 100,000+ enthusiastic fans. The effort to put a team in London is supported by many franchise owners and even many members of British parliament.  Goodell seems to be trying to foster support for particular teams in the overseas games in London. It is no coincidence that these teams have some of the worst attendance or fan base in all of the NFL. These teams include the Buccaneers, attracting only 75% of its total capacity at home, and the St. Louis rams, who will be playing in London for four consecutive years following next season. If a team were to be moved to Britain, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would make the most sense, being that their owner is the same as Manchester United, a local soccer team.

However moving a team to London is likely not the most practical solution. With the NFL looking to put a team in Los Angeles, a double expansion to 34 teams could be in order. Clearly there is support for a team in London, but 33 teams simply cannot work.  This way the London Football fans would not be stuck inheriting a subpar team that has little to no chance of competing for a playoff spot, let alone the Super Bowl.  Although the concept of a team in London seems cool it is very inconvenient for U.S. fans. One problem for a team in London is that in order for viewership to be maintained back in the U.S, every game played in London must be played in the late afternoon or nighttime. Besides that, the london team would have to have long away stretches, and  west coast teams will require a bye after playing in London. These complications can be overcome with careful planning by the league, but still, adding a team to London is unnecessary and would not be possible for many years.

Seeing teams in London and Los Angeles would be awesome, and there is solid support for each.  If the raiders can get exciting enough to warrant viewership, then they will become a very viable option to access the massive Los Angeles market. Whether they move or not, the NFL could still add another team to L.A. in order to also place a team in London expanding the league to 34 teams. Unless the NFL wishes to maintain its 32 team cap, in which case the Buccaneers seem to be the most logical choice for a move to Britain. Goodell said he doesn’t care which city comes first, which implies moving teams rather then expansion. Either way Roger Goodell, and many others, wish to see teams under the lights of both London, and L.A.

Andrew Bosset
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