CRF Blog

The NFL Should Expand To London. But First: Canada, Mexico And LA.

by Bill Hayes

In The NFL Should Expand To London. But First: Canada, Mexico And LA for  FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver investigates which cities hold the most promise for successful NFL franchises.

It might seem like a matter of time before the NFL and London stop flirting and start going steady. Six NFL teams have flown across the Atlantic to play a football game this year — most recently, the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, who squared off on Sunday in the third and final London game of the season. (Just as if they were playing on home soil, the Jaguars lost badly.) The league would have to inconvenience only two additional teams1 to host a franchise in London full-time.

Most commentary on the possibility of a London NFL team has been skeptical. Bill Barnwell, of Grantland, worried last year about travel and timing logistics and the potential disadvantages a London franchise would face in recruiting free agents.

My view is more optimistic, at least when it comes to whether a London team could find a sufficient fan base. I’m not sure a franchise in London would be a smashing success. But even given conservative assumptions, London’s huge population and revenue base are probably enough to outweigh the relatively low level of NFL interest there. Perhaps more important, in contrast to some U.S.-based candidates for expansion or relocation, a London team would not cannibalize much of the fan bases of existing NFL franchises.

Still, if London got first dibs on a team, the NFL would be overlooking a couple of more obvious candidates much closer to home. [more]