Over the last decade, the NFL has added a number of international games to the schedule in an attempt to tap into the global market. Every year since 2007 there has been at least one regular season game played in London. In addition to the London games, for a six year stretch from 2008 to 2013 Canadians were subjected to a Buffalo Bills game each year. But these were played in Toronto, which is just a two hour drive along the coast of Lake Ontario. The games in the United Kingdom are truly "international", with the flights ranging anywhere from six hours, from the east coast, to over 10 hours, from the west coast.
From 2007 to 2012, there was one game played in the U.K. each season. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, there were two games played each year. In 2014 the tickets for both NFL games sold out eight months before the games were to take place. This helped bolster the NFL’s hopes of placing a team in London, and prompted them to increase the number of regular season games in London to three for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Based on current agreements between the NFL and stadiums in the U.K., there will be at least five regular season NFL games in the U.K. during the 2018 season. Two of those games will be at a new stadium in Tottenham, and at least one will be at Twickenham Stadium, which will debut as an NFL venue in the 2016 season for the Giants vs Rams game.
Every year since 2007 the league has generated more and more interest in London, and eventually, they may get a franchise of their own.
Ticket availability, or lack thereof
The tickets for the 2015 game between the Dolphins and Jets were the fastest selling tickets in the series of NFL regular season games played in the U.K. since the initial 2007 game between the Giants and Dolphins. If anything, this helps support the notion that the novelty of NFL games in Europe is not wearing off, but becoming more popular. This is great news for a league that is looking for increasing revenue streams, but not such great news for NFL fans. Not only do local fans based in the United States lose one home game when their team hosts a game abroad, but fans who want to watch their team play in the U.K. are finding it increasingly difficult to secure the highly sought after tickets.
Even though Wembley Stadium boasts 90,000 seats, about double that of an average NFL stadium, the tickets disappear too quickly for many fans to acquire one without paying exorbitant markups by resellers hoping to make a quick buck, Euro, or Pound.
Not too long after going on sale, a quick look at Ticket Master’s U.K. site showed that the October 30th game between the Bengals and Redskins was already sold out. With 11 months remaining before the game takes place, the "Individual Game tickets" were already listed with "No Availability". Also, the tickets for the Giants and Rams game, are also no longer available. Only tickets for the Colts and Jaguars remain available for purchase.
Look no farther than Cincy Jungle site to see the frustrations and difficulties for Bengals fans trying to get tickets for the game within days of them going on sale.
The following experience by Cincy Jungle reader dnkw, highlights the type of experience that fans suffered through, which was accurately labeled by him, "bloody infuriating".
"It was frustrating as Ticketmaster allocated one set of tickets for you to purchase (based on your number/price requirements) without giving you the option of where to sit, so when I initially tried to purchase I kept getting South Side tickets, supposedly the Redskins' side," dnkw said.
Ticketmaster did not give you the option of where to sit, but only gave you your location at the end of the process of trying to buy tickets. If you wanted a different section, such as on the Bengals' side of the field, you had to begin the entire process over, including the "Recaptcha" security requirement.
To pour a little salt into the wound, Ticketmaster was pushing ads for people to buy resold tickets, all the while doing their best to frustrate fans trying to buy them at face value. Add in the fact that the tickets were selling out much more rapidly than many fans anticipated, meaning that fans who did not log on to Ticketmaster immediately, got "timed out", or re-entered the purchasing process, fans were unwittingly risking their chance of acquiring tickets.
Unlike many fans, dnkw was ultimately able to secure a ticket for the game. Although not without some difficulties in the process.
With the game sold out, it becomes even more expensive for fans who are traveling from the U.S. to the U.K., as the prices on the secondary market are undoubtedly more expensive. And, for Americans having to factor in the currency rate from dollars to pounds, plus flights to London, having to pay secondary market prices opposed to face-value factors into a very costly weekend abroad.
The loss of a home game
A total of 16 games will have been played in the U.K. by the end of the 2016 season. These games have involved a total of 22 teams. The Bengals will become one of 11 teams to have forfeited a home game by playing host in the U.K. The Jacksonville Jaguars lead the way with four home games lost for this purpose. All four of their games in the U.K. have been "home" games. Both the Dolphins and Patriots have played host twice overseas, the second highest frequency among NFL teams.
The Bengals and Steelers will be the only two AFC North teams to have played in the U.K. with only the Bengals having hosted a home game in the process.
For what it’s worth, historically, NFL teams have won about a 58 percent of the time when playing true "home" games. By playing in the U.K., this home advantage drops to 50/50, since both teams are realistically road teams, thus eliminating the 58 percent advantage for NFL home teams.