What is the best way for the NFL to bring in revenue: International Series, a permanent team, or discontinue International play?
The National Football League (NFL) International series began in London during the 2007 season. In 2007 the series consisted of only one game; however, since then, the number of international games has grown. This year there were four games, with eight different teams, in London, and there will be a game played in Mexico City, by two additional teams later this season. Therefore, ten of the 32 NFL teams will have participated in the International Series this season alone.
As the series has been going on for ten years, it is a good time for the NFL to consider: is it time to move a permanent team to London, continue with the International Series, or discontinue the attempted fan-base expansion?
The regular season of the NFL is comprised of 16 games, eight home and eight away, over a 17-week period. This means, that rather than the mere four games that were played in London this year, there would be double the amount of games played, leading to near double the amount of revenue brought into the area.
In 2013, Deloitte LLP, a large international accounting firm, conducted a study on the impact of the NFL on the UK economy. In 2013, there were only two games played in London. These two games brought a total of £32 million of additional spending on activities related to the games, such as spending on travel, souvenirs, and food and drinks at pubs that were broadcasting the games. Professionals at Deloitte predicted that in 2017, when there were four games played in London, that there would be an additional £58 million spent on game related activities. Furthermore, they predicted that if there is a full-time team residing in London in the year 2022, which is currently the goal of the NFL, that it will bring an additional £102 million to the UK economy during the duration of the season. In addition to the direct increase in business activity and public expenditures hosting major events brings to a city, there is also an increase in potential for inward investment.
Many community members are worried that introducing an NFL team to the UK would involve increased taxes for reasons such as building a stadium or adding public transportation to arrive at the stadium. Thus far in the International Series, the games have been played at Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium. In the US, NFL stadiums are subsidised by the government, through taxpayer money, to help keep the cost of building the new stadiums low for the teams. Since this would be the first NFL team outside of the US, the US government would not subsidize the stadium in the UK. Thankfully, UK taxpayers will not see their money going towards the building of a new NFL stadium. The NFL contributed £10 million to the building of the new Tottenham stadium, which will be completed in 2018. This contribution was conducted in accordance with a ten-year contract allowing the NFL to use the stadium for two games each season in this ten-year period. There are special amenities being put into the stadium for the NFL teams. These amenities include a retractable football turf over the American football turf, an NFL home team locker room, and an NFL media suite. Not only is the NFL growing their fanbase in the UK, but the Premier League has been able to grow the fanbase in the US; specifically, the Spurs after the shared field arrangement was made. Since then, Tottenham merchandise sales in the US have grown by more than 65%.
In addition to the £102 million that a UK NFL team could bring to the London economy each season, if the team is successful and thus is able to land a home playoff game, this would bring immense amounts of money to London, due to the number of people that would be drawn to London for the game, that otherwise would not have made the trip. Furthermore, in time, if London were to host a Superbowl game, it would bring even more spectator, to the city. According to many travel guides, the best time to visit London is between March and May, due to the best weather and the blooming flowers. Having an NFL team in London could increase travel to the city during the off peak time, specifically by Americans, as the NFL season begins in early September and ends in the beginning of February, with the Superbowl.
As we near Brexit and the transition period before it, the question of whether or not American football players will have the ability to reside in the UK is of discussion. Currently, elite athletes and coaches who do not possess an EU passport can apply for a Tier 2 visa, which grants them residency and work in the UK. An elite athlete is defined as someone who competes at the highest level of sport. In addition, the employment of the athletes must help develop the sport at this highest level. Internationally, the highest level of American football played is the NFL; therefore, according to current law, Americans, as well as non-UK American footballers will need to apply for a Tier 2 visa to play American football in the UK. The amendments that visas will face due to Brexit will likely not affect the ability of non-UK American footballers to move to London, as long as the NFL remains the highest level of play for American football.
An NFL team would not cost the city of London, nor the UK, a lot money, and it has the ability to drive up the revenue of the city substantially. By utilizing the recent contract the NFL made with the Spurs, the London economy will be positively impacted, as it will not have to build an additional stadium and it will drive up travel to London from other areas of the UK and the US. Furthermore, the home games will bring a crowd to London that otherwise may not have visited, therefore, driving up the revenue of many businesses, during the slowest visitor time of the year.