By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on July 21, 2014
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently said that the NFL should work to place an NFL franchise in London by the end of the decade. Given the NFL's effort to grow its brand internationally, as evidenced by the three regular-season games that will be played at London's Wembley Stadium in 2014, Kraft's proposal doesn't seem all that far-fetched. But here are five reasons why a London franchise is a bad idea.
Before the NFL dreams about millions of fans from overseas embracing American football, it should consider its failed venture in Europe. I'm, of course, referring to NFL Europe/Europa, a development league that had some surprising longevity, but failed to captivate European fans like the league envisioned, ultimately ceasing operations in 2007.
The NFL's longest current trip -- Seattle to Miami -- requires a five-hour flight. The closest road team to London is the Patriots, and a flight from Massachusetts to London takes over seven hours. Road teams would face a huge hurdle every trip to England. And the London franchise would face one of its own traveling to the United States eight times a season. The away team, either London or its opponent, would be at a decisive disadvantage.
Is London really more deserving of an NFL team than Los Angeles, the second-largest market in the United States, or closer international metropolises like Toronto and Mexico City? The answer is seemingly no, as Los Angeles has everything it needs to embrace a franchise under the right circumstances while Toronto and Mexico City possess larger followings of the sport.
Imagine how difficult it would be for a London team to lure free agents away form the United States. Many would have to leave behind friends and family in addition to adopting a new way of life. It's difficult to envision London signing many coveted targets without substantially overpaying. For that reason, the franchise would always be at a disadvantage. And a losing team wouldn't maintain interest in that soccer-obsessed climate.
Introducing an NFL team to London isn't some magical way to make the city and country fall in love with American football. Most England residents haven't been exposed to the game enough to develop any real passion for it. There's very little being done overseas, by way of youth or collegiate football, to actually grow the game at its core. Watching one game a week will do very little to change London's perception of the sport.
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