US Sports

Is London still in the running for an NFL expansion franchise?

Since 2007, the NFL has made London a temporary home for regular season games. Over the last 12 years, the NFL’s reputation and profile have grown immensely in the United Kingdom. Walk around the UK’s major cities and you are bound to see the odd person wearing NFL paraphernalia. An NFL expansion team has long been on the minds of gridiron fans in the UK and London is believed to be the future home of a franchise.

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NFL expansion London

A year ago, speculation was rife that the NFL was ready to launch an expansion team in London. Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, which will host two NFL London games in 2019, was built with hosting a permanent gridiron team in mind.

There has been some speculation that the NFL could expand from 32 to possibly 34 teams in the near future. In addition, there is a belief one or two NFL franchises may attempt to relocate if they are not able to gain a new stadium funded by the city they live in.

With NFL training camps kicking off in late July, there are no new answers about London’s possibility of landing a gridiron team. But the likelihood of gaining a franchise could be improving.

NFL expansion

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, several writes speculated about possible cities that could receive a future NFL franchise. Surprisingly, London wasn’t included in the list despite seemingly being the most likely destination.

London would be an expensive NFL franchise due to the amount of money that it would take for a training facility, stadium, and living or office costs in London. Of course, the team could share some of their facilities with Tottenham Hotspur, but it would still be an expensive franchise to run.

In addition, the franchise would play eight games in London and eight in the United States. To make the most of the costs, the team would need to spend several weeks in the US playing consecutive road games before returning to the UK to play consecutive matches.

Rugby’s Toronto Wolfpack are the best example of how an NFL franchise would work in the UK.

Despite the NFL’s growing popularity in the UK, the games are still seen as a novelty by many fans. If the league expanded into London, would fans continue come out as they do now?

It would be extremely difficult to attract away fans to games due to cost and distance.

NFL relocation

The Oakland Raiders will be the next NFL team to relocate cities. Following the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams moves to Los Angeles, the Raiders will move to Las Vegas after years of failed attempts to replace their current Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum ground.

Rather than dip their hands into their own pockets, many NFL owners want the cities in which their teams are located to foot the bill. When cities reject being held ransom, teams move away and London could benefit from a team relocating.

Right now, the Buffalo Bills are trying to get a new stadium to replace their New Era Field. The Bills want a new venue despite their current home being built in 1973.

If the Bills decided to relocate, London could be their destination. Although fans in London may not be receptive of a relocated team, the city could offer a bright new future for the Bills.

This season’s NFL London games will once again raise the question of whether the league will expand to the UK.

NFL London schedule 2019

Chicago Bears vs. Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 6, 18:00, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Oct. 13, 14:30 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Oct. 27, 17:00 at Wembley Stadium

Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 3, 14:30 at Wembley Stadium