One of the more successful endeavors the NFL has attempted over the past few years is sending regular season games overseas to London. Despite the ultimate failure of the NFL Europa league that lasted a little over a decade and a half, the NFL has regularly expressed interest in tapping such a huge potential international market for the American gridiron game.
According to Fox Sports' Alex Marvez, the latest potential NFL excursion point is China and according to NFL Media's Albert Breer, a regular-season game could happen in China as early as 2018 and a game in Germany is possible in 2017.
New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch told ESPN at the NFL Owners meetings on Monday that a half-dozen countries are in discussion as possible sites for international NFL games in addition to the games already planned this year in London and Mexico City. Tisch specifically named China, Germany and Brazil as possibilities for NFL action in the future.
The NFL has previously played preseason games in Tokyo, Japan in 1976, 1989-96, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2005 and hosted a game in Osaka, Japan in 2002. Per NFL.com, the NFL had plans to play in China back in 2007 in a game that was tentatively rescheduled to 2009 but ended up never coming to fruition.
It appears that the NFL is going all out in trying to expand its reach to other countries. In addition to the 14 games played in London so far, and the ones scheduled this year, there have also been reports of teams wanting to play in other international cities. The Pittsburgh Tribune reported on Friday that the Steelers were willing to give up a home game to play in Mexico City. And, per ESPN, despite the time difference and strain that a game in China would require, several teams have expressed an interest in being involved in a game in China.
The NFL International series began in 2007 as NFL Europa folded, and the Bengals have avoided an overseas trip ever since. That will change this year when the Bengals host the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium during the 2016 season.
We've already discussed just how lucrative of a business deal this can be for the NFL and the Bengals. However, there's also been the discussion about how it could potentially negatively impact Bengals fans and the city of Cincinnati. It could be a good thing and, as Cincinnati mayor John Cranley put it, "an opportunity for us to show an international audience what Cincinnati is all about." However, in the eyes of many, losing a home game is a huge blow to the city.
In addition to agreeing to build the Bengals a new stadium back in 1996 and no longer receiving financial help from the Bengals after 2009, taxpayers have had to fund improvements to the stadium from time to time. But, it's a deal that the taxpayers agreed to. That is, with the understanding that the Bengals would play eight home games a year, providing a huge economic boost to the surrounding area whenever opposing teams come in for games.
How much patience will fans have when NFL teams are discussing giving up more home games to play in places like China, Germany and Brazil, in addition to London and Mexico City? Furthermore, how will the players feel about being asked to play somewhere as distant as China?
A typical week in the NFL can be stressful enough even when you don't play on the road and have all the comforts of home around you. That typical NFL week can become even harder when you're asked to travel to a new, unfamiliar city, 12 or more hours away, via plane. The distance between New York and London is about 3,459 miles. Playing games out there seems trying enough. But, consider the fact that the distance from Los Angeles to China is nearly twice that (roughly 6,265 miles).
Does it really make sense for the NFL to expect to be able to put its best product on the field when players' already high-intensity routines are shaken up by a trans-pacific excursion? The NFL seems to think so, but we're not as sure.