This is my first FanPost, so here goes nothing…
There are two big issues floating around the NFL today: the moving of a franchise to London and the obsolescence of the Pro Bowl. If anyone has been reading any of John Clayton’s mailbags on ESPN (Yes, ESPN can be crap sometimes, but Clayton is generally pretty knowledgable. Also, he has that fantastic commercial.), he has had quite a few questions pertaining to these two topics and I think I have a reasonable solution to improve both areas.
London: Goodell has made it exceedingly clear that his goal is to expand into Europe. I think making American football a global sport is a great idea, but I think he is going about it the wrong way. It seems smarter to me to try and create multiple leagues and then having a playoffs of these leagues for a World Champion. Currently, it seems that Goodell wants to create one giant league which I believe would create huge logistical issues. It’s possible to schedule it correctly, just very tricky.
Moving a franchise to London might work, but I feel it is a big risk. The franchise out of London would likely struggle to compete on a yearly basis as they will likely need to overpay for FA’s. I think the general consensus of the league would be a slight bit of hesitation to move to a different country. It has nothing to do with London per se, but more to do with the players ignorance in dealing with foreign countries. (While I feel this is a slight generalization of the current players, I can only imagine that many of these players have limited experience with cultures outside of the US) I think any self-aware American would say that many Americans are quite ignorant when it comes to foreign affairs (myself included).
My main concern with Goodell’s current plan is how short-sighted it seems. While it can be debated whether or not a team in London would be successful or not, I think it is quite clear how damaging it could be if the team fails. NFL Europe failed and if a franchise was moved to London and also failed, I believe it would be very hard to repair those damages. Now, I do not live in London and have no idea of the popularity of the sport across the pond. It seems to me that it is more of a rogue operation, with a small cult following (I could be wrong in this). If this is the case, putting a franchise in London is a mistake. The reason football is so popular in America is because it is a part of our culture. I personally never played, but you can see the influences everywhere. The popular kids in high school were generally football players and it is a big deal to participate in. Foreign countries do not have this hard-wired into their culture. For this reason, Goodell should be targeting the younger age groups overseas and getting kids involved early on. Instead of just moving a franchise, educate younger groups of kids in Europe on the rules of football. The movement to accept American football as part of the culture needs to come from Europeans not from Americans. In essence, Europeans need to be clamoring for a team in order for this to work. Note: As I said earlier, I think there are many Europeans who would love to see American football overseas, but I do not believe the following is large enough currently to provide a wide acceptance of the sport.
Solution: I think the London solution can be solved by moving the Pro Bowl game to London. I think it helps solve both problems. First off, the problem with the current London games is that it only features a few teams. With a Pro Bowl game, you can get all of the stars that Europeans have been watching show up in London to help market the league. Imagine being a Bengals fan in London. Next year, AJ, Geno, Burfict, and Eifert (maybe he has a surprise rookie year) all make the Pro Bowl and are headed to London (assuming they aren’t preparing for the Super Bowl). If I live in London or anywhere near London, and I have the opportunity to see my teams favorite players in person, you bet your ass I’m going to do anything I can to get tickets to be there. They can even make it a two-day event where the players can be available to interact with fans. After being at that game and see AJ make a one-handed catch in the end zone, I know what I will be telling all of my friends about for the next few weeks.
The only downside to this would be finding some incentive for the players to spend their "Pro Bowl vacation" promoting the league. I think there are many options the NFL could do as the benefits of getting into the European sports market would be HUGE compared to any minimal incentives given to players.
I truly think that this game would get a lot of hype in London. From a business standpoint from Goodell, I think this is a better option to expand into Europe. The only thing I can’t figure out is how to make the Pro Bowl game more exciting and compelling. As everyone knows, the current Pro Bowl game is just a watered-down version.
At any rate, I would love to hear everyone’s opinions on this. I think Goodell’s general idea of working his way into Europe is a good way to go, I just think putting a franchise there currently is not smart until the sport has more popularity in Europe.
I have to say I am really enjoying CJ and the people on this site. Thanks for having me. :-)