Outside, looking in: UK NFL franchise one step closer?

You’ll hopefully know by now that I’m a big fan of NFL, but as I’m stranded in the UK I have no team I can watch live. I’ve also referenced in a few posts how we seem to be creeping ever closer to getting a UK NFL franchise team. The creeping has potentially moved to a brisk walk in the light of the news that Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn, has made a bid to buy the home of UK soccer, Wembley Stadium. Is that UK NFL franchise coming sooner than we originally thought?

UK NFL franchise

The Jags have already committed to playing one game per year in London right now. Last year the UK hosted 4 NFL games and has 3 games banked for October 2018. There is even a purpose-built NFL/Soccer stadium hybrid under construction. On 14th October, it will host Super Bowl-winning Bucs coach Jon Gruden and his Oakland Raiders, who will entertain the Seattle Seahawks. All of these are huge strides for the UK as they move to cement their place as the secondary market for the National Football League.

With the Jags on the East coast of the US, and arguably the lesser supported team of the 3 in Florida, it’s easy to see why they were ‘chosen’ as the possible London team. Should Kahn purchase Wembley, they will have a permanent home available, albeit without a hot tub in the end zone.

Money

Money is the driving force behind this, isn’t it always? The Football Associaton (FA) in the UK are on the rack for a large debt for Wembley Stadium. Built in 2007, at a reported cost of £750m, they still owe around £140m before they would clear all debts created to fund the project.

The proposed bid from Kahn is £600m. No more debt. It’s believed that he has also agreed to allow Wembley to retain the premium seating packages “Club Wembley” worth in the region of £300m. As a kicker in light of predicted uproar from soccer fans, the agreement apparently confirms that the England soccer team will continue to play their big games at “the home of football”.

The cash injection would allow the FA to invest in “grassroots” with a view to raising the England team’s profile on the world stage to its former glory.

Wembley Stadium

The official capacity of Wembley is 90,000. This would make it one of the largest stadia in the NFL. The slight issue is that it’s a soccer stadium, it wasn’t built for NFL. You notice this a little when you are in attendance. They have to blank out the front rows, because when you have 53 American Football players stood in front of you – fans can’t see. Then there is the dressing room, designed for approx 20 people.

Kahn has already proposed making some changes. Wembley is currently an open roof stadium and let’s be honest, our weather isn’t on par with Florida. He plans to put in place a retractable roof to remove the “weather issue”. You would think that might cost a pretty penny, so he is certainly committed to making it work.

Logistics

Besides the red tape of the current CBA, there are MANY other things to be considered. How about taxes for example? The personal income tax rate in Florida is zero, in the UK it would be much higher. How about travel? You’re talking 9 hours plus on a plane from Jacksonville to London, with a 5 hours time difference.

The NFL could provide some assistance with scheduling if they want it to work. Perhaps allowing the Jags a run of road games or home games to allow time to settle would help.

Along with a multitude of other issues to resolve, it’s going to take time. As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way.

Next steps

I’d be very keen to hear Bucs fans views of a UK NFL franchise. How would you feel about the prospect of having to travel to the UK for a Bucs game? Did you travel for the previous game back in 2011? What if it were your team that made the move? We’ve seen the likes of the Rams move cities in recent years and thrive after the move. That being said, the NFL rarely put fans first when it comes to their decisions.

Let me know in the comments. If you do happen to travel to the UK, I’m always happy to meet a Bucs fan for a beer!

Be sure to check out the rest of the excellent content on WhatTheBuc. The team provided some brilliant coverage over the draft and there is much more to come in 2018.

 

Simon Alexander

Simon Alexander

Bucs fan since October 2011 after seeing them lose to the Bears in London. I live on the other side of the pond (the cold and wet side). Big fan of sports in general both US and UK. Favourite Bucs player: KWON!

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