Regular Season Expansion and NFL London Plan
The NFL has been kicking around several changes over the last several years under the rule of commissioner Roger Goodell.
The major ideas being discussed are changes in player safety, expanding to an 18-game schedule and a bigger presence in the London market; which includes the possibility of a franchise moving to the European city within a decade.
The NFL has recently announced that in the 2014 they are adding a third regular season to be played in Wembely Stadium.
If these drastic relocation/expansion changes are going to be considered, then why not do it where the players, owners, fans, the scheduling and competitive balance are not compromised.
First and foremost the NFL’s scheduling formula and number of teams is absolutely perfect.
It is fair as it possibly can be, the league should not change that. This plan would not change either of those factors and actually it would incorporate the functionality of it.
This plan would add one regular season game to be played in London and give each team an additional bye week. This would be done between weeks 4 and 12 to allow teams to adjust to the time difference and give them their extra bye before the playoffs start.
Some weeks London would host multiple games to fit in all 16 games (all 32 teams) in this eight-week time period. The NFL could possibly look into this maybe Saturday & Sunday or Sunday & Monday on those weeks. Each team’s regular bye would be as far away as the London game/bye as possible to better disperse them within the schedule.
If the standard bye is early in the season then the London game is later on and vice-versa. London would get more games (16) in their city that a permanent franchise would, which would only increase revenue. Each team would have an opportunity to expose their brand to the international market. For the fans they can see Tom Brady, Payton Manning, Russell Wilson and Adrian Peterson all in one season.
With every game bringing in different stars, the London market would stay fresh and limit saturation of the NFL product. Would the London fans rather have the option to see multiple NFL teams in a season or would they rather inherit the current Jacksonville Jaguars?
The latter would easily lose the fan base’s attention first. Another factor would be that fans of all 32 fan bases would have a various number of people go to London to see their teams. People can plan ahead to make the London game the center of a vacation.
The NFL could then create some sort of travel services branch (if it doesn’t already exist) to help fans get tickets and accommodations to these games. If London got a bottom feeder franchise who would struggle to sign free agents and retain players, the product would get stale and ultimately fail. A handful of current NFL players have already spoken out and said they would opt for retirement before permanently relocating to London.
If enough players feel this way then the London franchiose may nly be comprised of players who are just happy to have a job and won’t attract enough players who are sought after in the States to build a winner. However, if a permanent franchise were successful on the field then it creates a problem if they had to host a playoff game.
How can you fairly schedule a game on wild card weekend in London and expect the winner to travel to play a road game in the US against a team who was good enough for a first round bye. What if the San Diego Chargers, for an example, had to play a wild card game in London and won and by winning they would need to fly back to visit the rest Denver Broncos in Denver.
The NFL would expect a team to finish the regular season, fly to London to play a game the next weekend, then fly back to Denver to play a team who has rested for two weeks. Home field advantage is designed to give some competitive edge to those who earned it but this would be unfair to not only the team who has to do the traveling but to the other teams who earned their bye but won’t be facing opponents who are so fatigue from both football and travel.
Getting back to the premise of all teams playing in London each year, it would need to be determined how to schedule the match ups for that one extra game outside of the standard scheduling formula, it is actually quite simple. Have the teams who finished in the same position in their division play the team with the same standing from the other conference’s division that they played the previous year.
It would add another AFC vs. NFC game to the schedule without charging the current format. Example; the Seattle Seahawks played the AFC East in 2012. The Seahawks finished 2nd in the NFC West and the Miami Dolphins finished 2nd in the AFC East. So if this plan were intact for 2013 the Seahawks would face the Dolphins in London and the rest of the schedule would stay the same.
It is believed most players would trade an extra game for an extra game check and an extra bye week after the London game. Plus the fans would get two more weeks of televised football with the extra games and byes. If the player’s position does not want to add the extra game, then eliminate a preseason game, the owners will make up the revenue from the London game each year.
To further make up for lost revenue of the preseason game potentially being eliminated; have the teams with two home preseason games share the revenue with the teams that have only one equally in a one week preseason revenue sharing system. Teams would alternate having two of the three preseason games at home each season.
Polls have shown most fans like the 16 game season; but if the league is adamant about expanding the number of games and making their presence felt in London then how does this not work for everyone?