The possibilities are endless for an NFL Europe… done the right way

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I had the chance to meet a man involved with the Amsterdam Crusaders football program. Their professional club this year will compete in the Big6, which are the six of the best teams playing American football in Europe. I was introduced to Menno Gibson through my good friend and legendary American high school football coach (who should be coaching in the NFL or at least D-1 NCAA), Jeff Scurran.

Menno is a lifelong teacher and coach and has devoted his life to helping children around the world.  He spoke from the heart and what he does for football is mostly a gift of his time. This meeting gave me the following perspective on American football, specifically the NFL, in Europe.

I think the NFL needs to change its thinking and opinion of Euro-American football for many reasons.

The NFL had the right idea with NFL Europe, they just executed it badly, and without understanding or considering what Europeans want out of the game.

The NFL did a poor job of listening, learning and ultimately failed to integrate with local talent and create a local message. They screwed up an amazing opportunity to connect and grow a sport worldwide and create access to a talent pool that is not playing football in the U.S..

That can be corrected.

However, you can’t just drop in to another country and expect your business model to work the same way it does at home. You have to grow it, build it, nurture it, and be patient with it.

The premise for playing American football in Europe should not have been to send Americans over to Europe and to develop American talent for the NFL, all while expecting huge crowds to turn out. It should have been to develop the game in Europe for the specific purpose of building local talent from European cities. Maybe integrate some American talent onto the rosters, (maybe those who narrowly missed practice squads).

In many ways the professional football game in Europe is similar to the atmosphere of the old days of minor league baseball in the U.S.. The people involved with the sport are doing it for the love of the game. Most are not getting paid and the players are generally playing for room & board, the chance to play professional football in Europe, and to put together some film for the NFL.

Make no mistake, there are some very talented young men playing American football in Europe. The kind of athletes NFL rosters are yearning for.

American football in Europe, like in the U.S., is generally played on a NFL regulation field and by the same rules most of our organizations in the U.S.. Some clubs have access to fields with locker rooms and spectator stands dedicated to American football. Larger clubs and stadiums may draw 7,500 fans to a game, while smaller teams draw 1,000 to 1,200.

In my opinion, given their talent, European players are more likely to transition to the American game, better than the Canadian Football League (CFL) or indoor arena football for that matter, which are very different games. The NFL knows this and many NFL teams are beginning to maintain an international scout on their staff.

In the beginning, the expectation to draw large crowds for games for NFL was silly. The interest level was just building. However, if you have local talent on the field there would be more reason for the locals to get behind there home team. Europeans are not interested in watching some American kids they have never even heard of. They want to see their cousins or their nephews catching passes, or making tackles, or dad coaching on the sidelines.

Again, it would again be very similar to minor league baseball played in large cities in Europe, much more fan connected and a unique experience. Or sort of like miniature NFL… at least too start. Think small and local, than big and continent-wide.

The budgets for these teams are comparably small, but to be fair they should be the same for all of the teams. For example, is that one team last year had a major sponsor and comfortable donors yielding them $3 million to spend, while my favorite team had no sponsors and about $30,000 to spend.

Here is an idea. Every two NFL teams could support a single NFL Europe franchise.  Each team would be able to have six players (12 total) American-born players on the roster each year.

These players would be first or second year players who may have been beyond the practice squad, but this way they would have an opportunity to develop on the field, playing the game in an American format against good talent.

Far better than working out in a gym on your own and waiting for the phone too ring.

The other 35 to 40 roster spots would belong to local European players, I would virtually guaranty you that the league would yield 40 to 50 players for the NFL every year. Especially, if guys like my friend Jeff Scurran are involved.

There is so much more to this than what I am pointing out, so hey Roger Goodell or Troy Vincent or even some major sponsors who want to get in this game, give me a call, American Football in Europe for Europe’s sake, is a brilliant idea and one that is happening with or without you, but could be so much better with you.

I am working on the business plan, so hit me up.


Jimmy Goldmsith is the C.E.O. and co-founder of Bombastic Industries Group, aka B.I.G. a full service sports agency, representing professional athletes on their contracts, marketing and sponsorships opportunities and in their lives.