NFL UK Chief Alistair Kirkwood: Prospect Of London-Based Franchise To Be Explored

NFL & FA to play delicate balance and both continue to call Wembley home

According to the Press Association this week, NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood said that the prospect of an NFL franchise to be based at London’s Wembley Stadium “will be explored in detail.”

Kirkwood said there was “real momentum” around American football in Britain with the sport now staging three matches at Wembley this season. He said,

“Moving from one game to three games in a couple of years is a sign of real momentum and fan growth. … We’re very interested in exploring the idea of a British-based franchise and seeing if we can pull it off. That’s the way of making our sport much more mainstream.”

Kirkwood warned that “there was still much work to do before a plan could be put in place.” He added, “It’s not just about the logistics of where a team might come from or whether it would be a new team, it’s also scheduling, air travel, a ton of other logistics.”

FA_crest_2009.svgThe Football Association (FA) “has made securing an NFL franchise at Wembley a priority and it is understood that would open the way to holding some England games away from the national stadium.”

Securing an NFL franchise “would be a lucrative earner for the FA, which owns Wembley, and allow the governing body to look at options for England games.”

The FA “agreed a deal to play all England games at Wembley until 2017 but there will be some flexibility when that current deal ends, although the majority of the matches would still be held at the national stadium” (PA, 10/9).

In London, Kay & Jacob wrote the FA “is contemplating staging England home matches around the country again after 2017 as it prepares tonight for the prospect of the lowest attendance for a competitive game since Wembley was rebuilt.”

FA sources have indicated a willingness to take at least some fixtures “on the road.” This “would happen after the initial ten-year debentures,” which underpin the £757M ($1.2B) stadium’s business plan, have expired.

Any potential loss of income “will be offset by growing possibilities for Wembley not just with the prospect of Euro 2020 and future Champions League finals, but also the likelihood of an expansion in its arrangement with the NFL over the staging of American football matches.”

The majority of England matches “will still take place at the national stadium, with the FA eager to make its Club Wembley packages as attractive as possible,” but some more low-profile games could be held elsewhere in the country.

An FA spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, “but there is a growing belief that staging more matches nationwide would help England to reconnect with their fanbase” (LONDON TIMES, 10/9).

Source: Sports Business Daily

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.