Blogs & Opinion

Problems an NFL franchise in London would face discussed by Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson Posted 28th October 2013 view comments

The biggest news of Jacksonville's trip to Wembley happened on the Saturday before the game, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stood in front of a NFL fans' forum and said that he wants a NFL franchise in London, as well as Los Angeles.

"I want both [cities], but it doesn't matter which one is first," he told the fans forum, but added that there was no timetable for proceedings. In other words, the London Torches won't be starting in 2014 (annoying news, because we'd automatically get the No.1 pick and there is some great potential quarterbacks at No.1 this year).

An NFL franchise in London? Alex Ferguson discusses the potential problems of an exciting idea.

An NFL franchise in London? Alex Ferguson discusses the potential problems of an exciting idea.

He also confirmed that the NFL International Games won't be branching out to other countries, but would be staying in London. Apparently, London's easier to get to for Europeans, and it's great to be building a brand.

After Jacksonville's evisceration by the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Wembley, our blogger Alex Ferguson started thinking about the possibilities of a NFL franchise in London, named 'the Torches' after the small event in 2012 where some gold was won and it became OK to be British again.

The NFL is a glitzy minority sport, but it's a minority sport all the same.

Alex Ferguson
Quotes of the week

Alex Ferguson really wants to have a NFL team in London, but he's got some questions....


The NFL has some novelty value coming to London. The corporate entertainers love it, American NFL fans still think it's a novelty to come to London to see their team play and the UK NFL fanbase think it's cool to see their Sunday Sky Sports coverage come to life for less than the price of an Atlantic flight.

Jerry Jones, whose Dallas Cowboys - the biggest NFL franchise of them all - will be playing in London in 2014, told a Dallas radio station that it'll be interesting to see if Londoners can "buy into the pride and support a franchise".

My question is this:When will the NFL game (or three) stop being a novelty value for fans and travellers? I suspect, when they play an eight game schedule in London.

Here's what we predict will happen: Capping on the NFL's fantastic involvement in bringing The League to London, the first season for the London Torches would be rammed. It would be fireworks every Sunday. season tickets would sell out in a heartbeat, the rest of tickets would be a touts' paradise and it would be the talk of the town. But then, the novelty factor will wear off.... You know what happens next.

The issue for the London Torches is that American Football is not intrinsic to British culture. The biggest sport is football (by a mile), then cricket and two rugby sports battle for the rest. The NFL is a glitzy minority sport, but it's a minority sport all the same. And don't get me wrong, it's amazing to see a women's American Football team, it's also exploding in UK universities and there are a ton of teams to participate in according to the British American Football National Leagues' website, but it's still a minority sport.


Despite not having any roots in Pennsylvania whatsoever, I'm a Penn State fan on Saturdays and a Pittsburgh Steelers fan on Sundays. My two teams last weekend were beaten by a combined score of 84-32. But I stay loyal (oh, and QPR lost 2-0 on Saturday), despite trips to other places in the USA to watch collegiate and NFL football.

Anyway, if the London Torches came to town, I would find it difficult to find a 'Road to Damascus' conversion and suddenly become a Torches fan. I would find it difficult to put down the towel, however terrible the team has been. I would dare say that asking fans from all over the UK to put down their shirts, caps and jackets of current NFL teams and make it an active 'thing' to support the Torches would be a similar ordeal.

While I've met plenty of fans who will support the team in the city that they live in (i.e. the chap sitting next to me in Atlanta in September was a Bears fan but a Falcons season ticketholder) in the USA, would it happen in the UK?

The UK fan base - born of football fanaticism - would find it difficult, I suspect. And more's the case, who would they support if their 'old team' came to visit the Torches? I would argue that if Dallas and San Francisco came to town, it would be those sides.

As a marketing idea, I'd suggest the Torches target every bank, insurance broker and US citizen living this side of the Atlantic and encourage them to buy a season ticket - according to 2011 Census; there are over 170,000 of them in the UK!


Newsflash: If the London Torches came to London, they wouldn't be good. They would be terrible.

When the Houston Texans started in the NFL in 2002, they went seven years without having a winning season. SEVEN. Going back further, the Cleveland Browns - reactivated in 1999 after a three-year hiatus - have only reached the play-offs once since they came back on the scene. ONCE. They've had 12 losing seasons in that period, and only one 10-win one. And yes, they could turn out like the Carolina Panthers, who went to a NFL Championship Game in only their second year, a Super Bowl in their ninth, and have been to the play-offs three times since they started in 1998 but haven't since they were pecked by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. Get the picture?

If the Torches are like the Carolina Panthers in 2003 and 2005, then we'll be all be PROUD to be fans. But if it's all a struggle, you get the feeling that the fan base - even the corporate one - would stop going and happily sit around digesting lunch and watching Super Sunday.

And as for the patience of the incredibly positive and not cynical British press....that would get tested too! "London's Losers!" we can see a paper headline, after the Torches lose the first game of their history 48-7.


If you're a Premier League season ticket holder (as I was for the magical two years QPR were back in the Premier League recently), then you're already paying one sporting club a tidy sum. Add to that away games, and the punch to the wallet gets harder.

The average price for a NFL ticket ranges from $109 (£65) to $446 (around £280), according to ticket pricing website And unless you live in London, that's travel, hotels (the last trains will have often left if you're the 5pm game), and maybe a day off work.


While it's pretty amazing that Wembley's the home of football and FOOTBALL, the pitch gets beaten to death after a game there. And when there's an England game during the NFL season, you can see where the NFL game was beforehand (and vice versa).

Plus, there's the small matter that Wembley holds 90,000 people....which would make it the second-biggest stadium in the NFL by some way (only behind AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys).

Would the new owner build a smaller ground like his or her MLS counterparts have done for their teams, or would the owner stick with Wembley? Is Wembley the optimal place for travellers - particularly those coming from the South of England or Euston? And if the Torches played at a smaller ground, would that be cool with the NFL, who dictate that 60% of the profits go into the home teams' pockets, and 40% goes to a pot that's shared amongst the NFL teams? And playing-wise, could Wembley cope with seeing its pitch getting pounded once a week or once a fortnight?


The London Torches need an owner. If Jacksonville stays in Jacksonville (possibility) or moves to LA (another possibility), the new-fangled London NFL Expansion franchise would need an owner. To pay for NFL players' enormous wages, the owner would either have to have deep pockets or be willing to charge a fan base hundreds of pounds for season tickets to keep the team afloat, or more's the case, competitive. The last time we looked, the pawns in the chess game on Billionaire's Row were football teams, not NFL teams. Would a non-US NFL owner be approved by 75% of the owners (what's required for someone to take a NFL franchise)? It would certainly be an interesting conversation!

back to top

Other Blogs:

Latest Posts in :

Alex Ferguson

Clowney's no joke

US sports expert Alex Ferguson profiles Jadeveon Clowney, the biggest defensive pick of the draft....

Alex Ferguson

King James reigns

Alex Ferguson celebrates a wacky, smile-inducing year in US sport - and salutes Miami's LeBron James....


Alex Ferguson

Start your engines!

Alex Ferguson predicts who will triumph in NASCAR's showpiece race, the Daytona 500....


Alex Ferguson

A perfect union?

Alex Ferguson looks at the possible unionisation of college football and how he would handle the issue....

Alex Ferguson

Call of the century

Spacemen Portland pick Bowie over Jordan - Alex Ferguson ranks the biggest decisions in US Sport....


Alex Ferguson

Independence aces

Alex Ferguson kicks off his Independence Day fun by picking his 20 best bits of American sport....


Jamie Carragher

Bruce almighty

Steve Bruce deserves a mention when this year's managerial awards are handed out, says Carra....

Peter Beagrie

An Easter feast

Beags previews the cracking Easter action in the Championship, including games for the top three....

Ed Chamberlin

Van the man?

Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey....


Martin Tyler

Goal crazy

When did Liverpool last score three without Suarez and Sturridge netting? Martin Tyler has the stats......


Will Greenwood

Building momentum

Will Greenwood wants England to lay down a World Cup 2015 marker on their tour to New Zealand....

Dewi Morris

Heart and soul

Dewi Morris looks at a crucial weekend in the Championship as we head towards the play-offs....

Stuart Barnes

Ups and downs

Stuart Barnes says the drama of relegation must be kept in rugby, but the play-offs need changing....

Phil Clarke

To Hull and back

Phil Clarke looks at the mental damage done to Hull FC and Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup....

Rob Lee

Pinky and perky

Rob Lee blogs on his vivid Masters Breakfast attire and the men that made waves at Augusta National....

Paul McGinley

Joy for Jonas?

Jonas Blixt has the short game and heart to win the Masters at Augusta, says Paul McGinley....


Barry Cowan

Heavy burden

Great Britain's best Davis Cup since 1986 fails to mask their reliance on Andy Murray, says Barry Cowan....

Barry Cowan

No force without Fab

Britain's Davis Cup quarter-final with Italy rests on the fitness of Fabio Fognini, says Barry Cowan...

Alex Hammond

Going the distance

Marathon entrant Alex Hammond previews the Newbury action and Scottish National meeting at Ayr....

Alex Hammond

Rocky's road

Alex Hammond explains why she is backing Rocky Creek and Lion Na Bearnai at the Grand National....

Andrew Balding

Resting up

Trainer Andrew Balding says On Demand is progressing well - but now needs time to recuperate....

Johnny Nelson

The best of friends

It will be tough but Johnny Nelson expects mates Anthony Crolla and John Murray to serve up a classic....

Glenn McCrory

Manny happy returns

Manny Pacquiao is back to his best and could yet get it on with Floyd Mayweather, says Glenn McCrory....

Johnny Nelson

Delighted for DeGale

James DeGale's Matchroom switch is the perfect move to get him back in the mix, says Johnny Nelson....

View from America

Desperate deals?

Simon Veness reviews a crazy week in the NFL's free agent frenzy, as sides splash out over $1bn....


Neal Foulds

Night at the Circus

Neal Foulds is looking forward to another fun, raucous Snooker Shoot-Out - but can't pick a winner....


Neal Foulds

Simply the best?

Five-time Masters champion Ronnie O'Sullivan may be the best snooker player ever, says Neal Foulds....


Neal Foulds

Four to the fore

Neil Robertson and snooker's other leading lights are pulling clear of the pack, says Neal Foulds....


Kelvin Tatum

The contenders

Kelvin Tatum runs through the teams and riders ahead of the 2014 Elite League Speedway season....

Kelvin Tatum

Kelvin's 2013 Review

Kelvin Tatum salutes Poole's hierarchy and Tai Woffinden in his round-up of the speedway season....


Kelvin Tatum

Rich re-Ward

Poole, and the dynamic Darcy Ward, will wrap up the Elite League title at Perry Barr, says Kelvin Tatum....


Richard Moore

The final curtain

Richard Moore reflects on Sunday's Closing Ceremony to an unforgettable Olympic Games......


Richard Moore

A lasting golden glow

Richard Moore suggests all the British Olympians should visit schools and talk about their experiences....


Richard Moore

Favourite Froome

Richard Moore reveals his predictions for the 100th Tour de France, which starts on Saturday....


Wayne McCullough

Wonderful Davis

Wayne McCullough watched Antonio Rogerio Nogueria take on Phil Davis at UFC Fight Night 24. ...


Wayne McCullough

Jones shines bright

Wayne McCullough was highly impressed as the talented Jon Jones made short work of Mauricio Rua....


Wayne McCullough

A bloody marvel

Wayne McCullough salutes Diego Sanchez as he edges out Martin Kampmann in a UFC humdinger....