No NFL At The OS – For Now

The Olympic Stadium will be hosting Premier League football next season, but has the potential to invite a whole range of exciting sports, including American Football, writes Jahin Shamsuddin.

Every year, the NFL has come to England for their International Series in which three games are played in London’s Wembley Stadium. Each time it has been considered a phenomenal success. The NFL brand has become so popular in England, it has added an extra two stadiums so that more teams can come and participate. That means extra dates are added to the calendar. Last year, there were three fixtures that were played at Wembley. By 2019, the NFL look to add an extra two fixtures. Those two stadiums are Twickenham and Tottenham’s new stadium White Hart Lane which is expected to be completed by 2018.

Fans are more eager to watch the NFL and get to grips with the rules and how the game works. As years go by, the question that is repeatedly asked is when does London get a franchise team? That is something the NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell is currently working on. Goodell’s mind has reportedly been blown by the reception the NFL has received in England and is sure that one day, a franchise team would be playing in the NFL.

Success

However, a scenario that the NFL should consider is the inclusion of London’s Olympic Stadium which is also home to West Ham United. It was host to the 2012 Olympics and the stadium itself was considered a success. With a maximum capacity of 80,000, it will be the third largest stadium in England.

Currently, there aren’t any plans for the Olympic Stadium to host any NFL games at all with the trio of stadiums that were announced being the primary choice for venues. However, in 2013, there was some speculation that Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, could move his team to London with the Olympic Stadium as a potential venue. Although it was just speculation, it would make sense for a team to play in the Olympic Stadium as it has the features to do so.

There is no doubt that the Olympic Stadium would sell out each game. Whenever the International Series comes to Wembley, tickets are usually sold out within two days. Only 3% of ticket sales are American with the majority of the fans coming in from London and different parts of the country.

Concerns

A major stumbling block however would be West Ham. With NFL teams coming in to play their games at Wembley, there have been big concerns about the state of the pitch especially from England and Roy Hodgson. As it is a hands on game, pitch concerns will be a huge factor and that is something West Ham wouldn’t want happening.

Rising East asked fans about the sport coming to London as a potential franchise and whether the Olympic Stadium should be the main tenant for the team.

@DanCohen17 said that London will have a franchise team in the near future but didn’t think that the Olympic Stadium could be a suitable host stadium as the location would be inconvenient for the fans.

@NFLGirlUK stated that they don’t think a London franchise will happen or not but also suggested that Tottenham’s new stadium White Hart Lane could be a better venue.

The stadium itself cannot host any games before 2017 due to the exclusive rights Wembley has on the games. It does look as if any future games won’t be happening in East London with the involvement of Twickenham, Wembley and White Hart Lane with three stadiums being plenty for the time being.

Talks

The exclusion of the NFL isn’t the end of the world. Just recently, the Major League Baseball (MLB) announced plans to bring the games to Europe for the first time in a similar deal in which the NFL holds with Wembley. The MLB deal is currently in advanced talks and if a deal is to be reached, then the sport would come to the Olympic Stadium in time for the 2017 season. The fan base for the MLB is huge, it is regarded as one of the “big four” in North American sports along with the NBA who currently have games played in the O2 arena every year and the NHL.

As well as hosting potential baseball games, the stadium is also looking to host Twenty20 cricket games from 2016, the 2017 Athletics Championship as well as concerts. This is a major deal for the Olympic Stadium as well as East London.

The future is bright for East London and the Olympic Stadium. From 2016-17 onwards, it will be the home to West Ham as well hosting cricket, potentially hosting MLB games as well home to a variety of concerts. But if the NFL are willing to talk to the London Legacy Development Corporation who are the operators of the stadium about a potential deal to host any games in the future, then they should look to do so.