Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Mar 2007

FO Interview: Mark Waller, NFL International

Questions compiled by Aaron Schatz and Michael David Smith

A regular-season game in London, a preseason game in China -- the NFL is working hard to expand its footprint across the globe. Mark Waller oversees all of this development as senior vice president of NFL International. Born in Kenya, raised in the United Kingdom, Waller has lived in the United States since 1996 and worked for the NFL since February of last year. He recently agreed to take questions from Football Outsiders, particularly from our extensive international readership.

Football Outsiders: First of all, tell our readers about your background, and how a British businessman came to love American football and work for the National Football League.

Throughout my business career, I've always maintained a great passion for sports. I had always admired the tremendous success the NFL seemed to enjoy, and when the opportunity came for me to be a part of the organization, I eagerly took advantage of it.

Football Outsiders: Obviously, there has been a huge amount of interest in the Dolphins-Giants game in London. What activities does the NFL have planned around the game, to help spread football in England past just that single contest?

One of the major points we stressed to ownership last fall was that we would not undertake the international regular-season game initiative in a vacuum. The games would be part of a larger strategy to help increase the popularity of our sport worldwide, focusing on the markets we identified for regular-season games ... the UK, Germany, Canada, and Mexico. We are still working on the ancillary events that will surround the game, but the idea is to allow the people of London and beyond to participate in the NFL coming to town in a variety of ways, even if they are unable to attend the actual contest at Wembley.

Football Outsiders: What is the current status of NFL Europa? Every year we seem to hear rumors that some owners no longer want to support it.

It's really a new beginning for the league, but it comes at a crucial time. We moved the league office from London to Frankfurt, Germany. We have a new leadership team in place. The name of the league has been changed to NFL Europa, to more closely identify it with fans in Europe, and we have a new logo. The league is beginning its 15th season, and our goal is to see improvement across the board in a variety of areas, from attendance to sponsorship to the play on the field. The owners have approved NFL Europa through 2009, and we're looking forward to another exciting season.

The rest of our questions were submitted by FO readers.

Martin Driver: The UK's World League/NFL Europe teams, the Monarchs and the Claymores, both failed. Are there any plans to reintroduce a British team in NFL Europa? Could the NFL alter the way NFL Europa works in order to generate more interest?

We are always looking for ways to improve the league, so we consider new ideas constantly. Right now, our focus is on strengthening the six teams in NFL Europa before we consider adding others, so no, at this point there are no plans to re-introduce British teams.

Horacio Hernandez: What would it take for the NFL to open a franchise in another country, both in general and specifically in Mexico?

Well, the world gets smaller all the time. Commissioner Goodell has said that he could one day envision an NFL franchise beyond the borders of the United States. So in that respect, it is certainly a possibility. Much like in the United States, factors that would be considered include if there is a stadium that can offer a first-class NFL experience, is the local business community behind the effort, and is the fan support there to sustain an NFL team on the ground. Those are all factors that would play a part in such a decision.

Sergio Becerril Lopez: What's the best way to get official NFL merchandise outside of the United States? I've bought some stuff over NFLshop.com, but international purchases are still difficult (mostly due to customs), and there isn't a lot of variety in the few stores that carry official merchandise down here (in Mexico).

Right now, the ways you mention would be your best options. We are always seeking to find the best methods to deliver NFL products to fans, and we will continue to try to make this as easy as possible for fans outside the United States.

Bengt Bischof: If Germany is the most promising European market for the NFL, why are both the amount and quality of TV coverage going downhill, and can we expect a more regular TV coverage of NFL games in the future? At the moment, selected (my guess is 10-20 percent of Germans) cable TV customers have good coverage by the British NASN channel; the others have only the Super Bowl. Until a couple of years ago, several games each week were available for everybody on pay TV over satellite, one of them usually free-to-air. In the Super Bowl broadcast on free TV this year, we had Boris Becker as an "expert" (it seems he lives in Miami, thus qualifying him for the job).

Our goal is to strike the best deals possible for our fans and our television partners and we will continue to do that. But the dynamics of how fans consume sports are changing dramatically. We have seen that with the popularity of video-on-demand content as well as other forms of new technology. We continue to be creative in these approaches as well as always respect the traditions of the NFL.

Levente: Does NFL plan to promote itself on foreign markets through developing foreign players?

We are always seeking to increase the number of people playing our sport. We have seen examples time after time of a local athlete succeeding in a sport, sparking others to follow. We have several programs in place, from the international players competing in NFL Europa, to the practice squad player development program to our grassroots and youth initiatives, that are working to increase the number of football players around the world.

(Readers may be interested in this article from Sunday's New York Times about the league's attempt to groom a Chinese kicker.)

Sergio Becerril Lopez: What's the best way for a football player/coach in Mexico to get to the NFL? Does the NFL scout ONEFA (Mexico's top college league), or is the player meant to send his own tape to NFL teams? Do they have to enter the NFL Draft? Are there any official channels already in place?

NFL teams have shown, if talent is out there, they will find it. There is no single best way to make it to the NFL from Mexico, but of course, succeeding in the Mexican collegiate leagues is a good way to start, coupled with getting that videotape of players before NFL personnel staffs.

James: Are there any plans to create Pop Warner and/or youth leagues in the UK? If so will the NFL provide funding for equipment and personnel? If not, I fear that the London game will be a "flash in pan," followed by indifference as usual.

We plan to make sure that the regular-season game in London is not a one off event but part of a broader strategy to grow our sport in the United Kingdom. We are still working on what specific programs will aid this effort, but certainly engaging youth will be a key initiative.

Dori Reichmann: In addition to being an enthusiastic reader of Football Outsiders, I also take part in an active attempt to establish an amateur American football league in Israel. Are there any activities (ongoing or planned) aimed to help development of football beyond a spectator sport in countries outside the USA and NFL Europa countries?

We support football and wish it to succeed wherever it is played. That said, our resources are not unlimited and we are focusing on the countries in which we seek to play regular-season games ... Canada, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, along with continuing to grow our sport in Japan and introducing it in China. Right now, those are our priorities.

Stan McKeon: I would like to know what the NFL plans to do in promoting the game in Australia in the future. There are currently two Australian punters in the NFL (Ben Graham and Mat McBriar) and a third has just signed with the Eagles (Sav Rocca). It seems the NFL does little to no promotion in Australia where there is an untapped source of strong, athletic sportsmen with great hands and tackling ability.

As much as we would love to invest in programs in every country, it is simply not feasible. We hope more and more players from Australia make an impact in the NFL, and this will certainly impact the league's popularity in that country.

Kalyan Chatrathi: With a significant Indian population returning back from education/jobs in America, and many having strong ties with their local NFL teams, doesn't India make for a larger market than China in terms of near-term potential? Couple that with the way viewership in English Premier League has taken off in the last few years due to availability on ESPN-Star Networks and even the media following EPL; wouldn't making more NFL games available on television and having an exhibition game in India make more sense than China -- a market with larger potential but significantly less development than India currently?

We have had flag football programs in Chinese schools as part of the physical education curriculum for several years. We feel that with the Olympics coming to Beijing in 2008, our China Bowl game in that country as part of the one-year countdown to the Olympics is an excellent opportunity for us to begin to grow our sport in this market. However, that does not mean we will not consider other areas, and in the future, perhaps an American Bowl game in India could one day become a reality.

Ian Hardingham: How would you rate the success of NFL Game Pass in association with Yahoo! in its opening season? What changes can we expect next year?

The internet will be a growing aspect of servicing our global fans, and we are very pleased with our initial efforts in this area. We had a great consumer reaction because it's a terrific product. Next year we will be more aggressive in promotion and hope to be even better than in year one.

Jérémie (France): Since we can't watch the playoffs live, does the NFL intend to put the playoffs on Yahoo's NFL Game Pass?

This is an evolving area of technology and we will continue to study the best ways to bring our game to the fans.

Bill Miller: The official distributor of NFL games on DVD in Europe, Pontel, does a nice job, but in the age of Internet the delivery time is too slow and the cost per game too high. Don't you think the future is iTunes-style downloading?

I think this issue will ultimately be settled by the consumer and it will be up to us to deliver content in the means in which you wish to consume it. This is why we are aggressive in developing and exploring new technologies to grow our fan base.

Football Outsiders thansk Mark Waller for taking the time to answer these questions.

Posted by: admin on 05 Mar 2007

57 comments, Last at 14 Mar 2007, 11:04am by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil

Comments

1
by Ch V Kalyan (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 7:04pm

Aaron - thanks for including my question.
Also, first!

2
by UK-Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 7:27pm

Is it just me or do most of his answers just have no actual useful information in?

He seems to be talking in cliches and marketing speak. There's just no content in there and it comes over as pretty patronising really.

3
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 7:28pm

Super Bowl 100...
The London Knights vs the New Delhi Tigers

4
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 7:35pm

Is it just me or do most of his answers just have no actual useful information in?

Not a lot of experience with executive interviews, eh?

Seriously, nice article. There are tidbits of information in there. It's the best he could do, I'm sure. Can't be too critical of the guy.

5
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 7:53pm

Good stuff. While there was a lot of say nothing, this did throw up some interesting stuff. The thing that caught my eye was

"at this point there are no plans to re-introduce British teams."

That's a decision I can understand. What doesn't make a lot of sense is to award London a game while there isn't an NFL Europa team in the UK. I'm very grateful it's coming here but it's illogical.

Five of the six NFLE teams are in Germany and the sixth is in the Netherlands, which isn't a huge distance from Cologne, Frankfurt Hamburg or Dusseldorf. If London isn't on the NFLE radar it doesn't bode well for the youth development required over here. It would also have made more sense to give the real NFL game to Germany.

6
by Randy S. (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 8:05pm

2 - I noticed that too. Even the very first question about his background seemed like an job interview response.

The story about Chinese kickers was actually really interesting, and definitely worth checking out. I wonder why they only brought over three people though, why not more? Why not try to groom a bunch of American of Chinese descent as well?

7
by Ian (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 8:20pm

Thanks for including my question (Ian Hardingham), but I also found the lack of candor fairly annoying.

8
by ZS (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 9:06pm

For those of you with shorter attention spans, the last half of the interview in SparkNotes form -

"We're having a game in England, and we're developing the market in Europe and China."
"What about Mexico?"
"Kinda."
"Israel?"
"Nope."
"India?"
"Nada."
"...Australia?"
"No."
"Can I watch playoff games on the internet?"
"Sorry."
"What if I want to download the games from the internet?"
"Legally?"
"Uhh.... sure."
"Nope."

9
by Sergio (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 9:07pm

Thanks for including my questions, guys.

Yeah, he seemed a bit 'executive-ish'. I'm glad either way; it's not like I get this kind of feedback from the NFL...

I'm not too sure about the international franchises, in that I don't believe the support is there for 8 games a season (at least in Mexico City, where you'd have to fill a 100k+ stadium). I sure do hope I live to see it, though...

10
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 10:37pm

Well what international cities could host a franchise? Remember, it is not just putting lots of asses in seats, you also have to look at the businesses paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for those expensive luxary boxes.

Mexico city has a huge population, but is their per capita income enough? Are there businesses going to pay lots of pesos for a tax write off? Do they get tax write offs?

I'd say a big city like Tornoto is more likely. The Raptors have problems with the exchange rate. Well, with the dollar becoming more and more watered down, that might not be such a bad thing.

What about London? They have the population and the money to support a team ( if they were interested enough). Would football over there be like soccer over here or would they give a shit?

How about the " ultimate" home field advantage over there? Flying over the atlantic into a different country and multiple time zones.

West coast teams already don't fare very well when they play in the east coast with 1pm kickoffs ( it feels like it's really early in the morning for them).

If a team went to London from say Boston, it wouldn't be THAT different than Seattle going to play an east coast team though. The problem though would be if a WEST COAST team had to go play a game in London.

I was thinking about it though, and if the NFL really wanted to though they could. Think about it, instead of having teams like the Jets/Giants split AFC/NFC, what if they made the west coast as the AFC, and the East coast as the NFC. You could have teams like the Pats, Jets, Giants, Philly, Baltimore and add London to the mix. The home field advantage/disadvantage would still be there, but it wouldn't be so crazy like the Chargers, 49ers, or Raiders going to London ( not like the Raiders would win anyway). Just brainstorming guys. It would take a major realignment of divisions/ conferences, but London has a lot of people and a lot of people with money. Maybe this wouldn't happen in 20 years, but later down the road.

11
by KenF (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 11:19pm

This has to be the most boring interview I have read in a long time. As stated by many others, this guy had nothing interesting to say and spoke like a pr flack.

12
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 1:37am

That was a shockingly awful interview. Not Aaron's fault of course, if the subject wants to feed you cliches and not directly address the question you're screwed. As for everyone saying it's typical executive talk no shit. But occasionally you do get interesting comments/interviews with higher ups. In fact I feel like in recent years interviews like this are moving towards being significantly more informative because bland answers like the ones above are worse than not giving an interview at all in terms of PR.

13
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 5:36am

I wonder why Mr. Waller was unwilling to give specifics or to volunteer any interesting information. I also wonder why he avoided addressing certain questions at all by giving non-answers.

I don't mean that rhetorically -- I'm really curious. Is he (and the NFL) just keeping his cards close to the vest? Does the league not have any plans regarding the issues raised in the interview? Are the issues raised somehow out of his purview?

14
by Andy (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 8:15am

I'm sorry to say it but I have to agree with those who thought that this was a really, really awful interview. Mr. Waller had practically nothing to say - if that was the case, why bother?

15
by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 9:31am

I agree that the interview did not shed too much light in general, but if one tries to 'read between the lines', one can draw some conclusions. For instance, the answer"...the dynamics of how fans consume sports are changing dramatically. We have seen that with the popularity of video-on-demand content..."to my question"Can we expect a better TV coverage (in Germany)?" must be translated to:"Forget about the telly, fella, get our stuff over the innernet!". Right?Thanks for the great effort, FOers, although it didn't work out as positively as expected.

16
by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 10:40am

There was actually quite a bit of information here - when you get to that level you realise that every word is going to be analysed in minute detail.

I found it very interesting that they have realised that the UK won't go for the watered down NFL Europa but will support a real game.

I think the Bills will eventually become a 3 city franchise with games split between Buffalo, Toronto and London....

17
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 10:44am

A regular-season game in London, a preseason game in China — the NFL is working hard to expand its footprint across the globe.

Working hard on doing a bad job.

All I can conclude from this is that NFL International has a bad foreign strategy and puts all it's energy in a 'flash in the pan' aka London game.
It was a GREAT opportunity to show the Germans that the NFL is serious about them, if they let Dusseldorf or Frankfurt host it.
Now, the London game is considered a slap in the face to the Dutch and German fans.

He doesn't seriously think the NFL will become popular after 1 London game??
How stupid can you be.
And the "broader strategy to grow our sport in the United Kingdom" is just cover up for 'they gave us more money'.

Then there's the China thing. I can understand that you want to be in China, but the NFL is actually catching on in Japan. Maybe strengthen the fundation there?

All they're doing now is having a bad foundation at 4 places, while never getting anything from the ground instead of realizing something in Japan and Germany / Netherlands.

Plain dumb strategy.

18
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 10:51am

now THAT is a short leash!

19
by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 11:22am

17 Sour grapes? I agree that the interview was sadly a missed opportunity for Waller to put forward what is actually going on with NFL globally. May I humbly suggest he either isn't high enough up to know as everything is obviously decided in the US anyway; or he is sensibly tight lipped. If the strategy is to host a couple of games a year where we think we can make the most money (as it appears to be) then you can't blame him for being honest about that!
Re 16 I have been saying for a while that I see that as the way to go. One regular season game a year for a small market team in London, Frankfurt etc on a regular basis. I suspect this model would prove very successful and I do not believe you need grass roots play to support professional popularity.
How many people have ever actually played American football here, or boxed, or driven in a race, yet enjoy watching these sports? I would humbly suggest that the massive over-subscription for tickets proves a one game a season model will work very well (and generate further future merchandise income and raise value of TV rights) for the NFL.

20
by Lou (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 11:29am

I wonder if Waller even did the interview. It was an email interview right? Maybe he just passed the questions to someone lower on the totem. That would explain the weird non response to the first question.

21
by David Mazzotta (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 11:52am

I am conviced those responses were computer generated.

Either that or Waller was in a hurry to get back to his TPS reports.

22
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 12:11pm

The interview was pretty non-informative, but I can't blame Waller for that. Like any executive, he was hesitant to give away information that could tip NFLI's marketing strategy or look bad in the case of failure.

However, I agree with several posts above that the NFL is doing a pretty crappy job at nurturing interest internationally. I would think the first, cheapest step toward international development would be to provide the ability to watch games, whether on TV or the internet. That would allow a small group of hardcore fans to develop, who would then spread the league by word-of-mouth and spearhead interest in any events the NFL held overseas.

Why doesn't the NFL work through CBS/FOX/NBC to put streaming broadcasts of games on the internet? They would provide another opportunity for the networks to sell ad revenue. The only reason I can think of is that if someone watches online, their viewership doesn't count toward ratings. Seems pretty ass-backward, though, to eliminate one segment of potential viewers so another appears to be slightly higher - couldn't they just add website hits to their overall ratings?

23
by ammek (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 12:57pm

There's significant interest in my region (eastern France) in American sports in general. The main reason is grassroots activity: local teams - often including local-based US students and military personnel - hold open days and visit schools promoting their team and football in general. The main competition is rugby, the selling of which is equally neglected at the elite level.

Fortunately the enormous amateur linemen that drop in on our school are better at marketing their product than Mark Waller. But then, they are real, breathing individuals, rather than a corporate speak-and-spell machine.

24
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 1:29pm

He could have at least answered the question about whether Mexican college students are subject to the draft. (I wouldn't think so, but a clear answer would be nice.)

25
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 3:51pm

Re 22:
Yahoo and the NFL offered a service for fans outside of North America where you could watch the games on the web. It's actually in one of the questions. I've heard some say it's good, some say not so great.

26
by Sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 4:04pm

#2:
No, it's not just you. Also, note how he never says he loves (or even likes) the game, just that he "admired the tremendous success the NFL seemed to enjoy." Sounds like if the NFL job had fallen through, he'd be just as happy working for Microsoft.

The glaring weakness in their marketing strategy is how fans are basically an afterthought. In the expansion question he lists the keys to success as 1) Good stadium, 2) Business support and 3) Fans. In reality, the only thing that will make a difference long-term is fan support. Without that, the stadium will be sitting empty in short order and the businesses will pull their support. So, how do you build fan support for a new sport? People have to be exposed to it. But, even this incredibly obvious point is lost on them. He talks in generalities about engaging youth, but there's nothing concrete, even though one would think they'd have worked on this prior to announcing the London game. The lack of free TV coverage in Europe? They like pay-per-view. But that only gets them into households who already know about their game.

27
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 5:20pm

Sure, it wasn't the greatest interview, but it was the best interview from an NFL exec. where he answered questions from fans that I've ever seen.

Wait, you mean that this is the only one I've ever seen?...

28
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 6:12pm

I'd love to see an NFL game in Amsterdamn.

29
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 6:42pm

Am I the only one who thinks that, on issues where he avoided the question, it may be because a deal is in the works that isn't ready to be revealed publicly yet? Maybe it's just because I've worked on a few projects I'm not allowed to talk about, but at least some of the non-answers seemed to be of the "Yes, something's going on, but you can't know about it yet" variety. I would try not to take it too personally.

30
by schroeder (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 7:06pm

If the city of Buffalo continues to disintigrate, to the point where the Bills can't make any money there, I could see them moving the team to Toronto - more money there, more people, and not as big a slap in the face to Bills fans as moving the team to, say, Los Angeles. But Canada's already got teams in every other American sports league so that's not a real stretch.

I think the travel time issues will mean you won't see any NFL teams outside of North America for a long, long time. I could see subsidiary leagues like NFL Europa springing up in China or other parts of the world.

There's also the issue of the NFL not planning on expanding for a long time. They finally have equal-sized divisions for only the second time since the merger. And the last time only lasted four years (the Jck/Car expansion in '95 until the return of the Browns in '99). I remember Tagliabue saying that they were staying at 32 teams for a while and not, say, expanding into L.A.

31
by Tal (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 8:23pm

First off, I'm really happy to see my question there (2nd question). Second, I think he did answer my question: he basically said, if the money's right, you can have your franchise.

I wasn't really thinking in Mexico City. More like Monterrey, an industrial city in the north of the country, with a superior per capita income, in which two soccer teams, even though they totally suck, fill in every seat in their stadiums 25-30 times every year. It's also filled with U.S.-based businesses and has its good share of rich entrepreneurs, so I figure that the business support would be there. You would have to remodel one of the stadiums to put it at an NFL level, but the money would be there for sure.

The city is also home to the multiple-champion team of the ONEFA (our best football league), and fans over there are always crazed about football, almost in the same fashion as soccer. The city is closer to the US than Mexico City, so the flight would be a little shorter.

Oh, since he didn't answer Sergio's question, I'd like to do it for him. The best way for a Mexican player or coach to get into the NFL is to go play or coach in a US college. The ONEFA playing level is considerably lower than the NFL's, and except for physical freaks who can get into a practice squad and polish their abilities (Cantú with the Cards, for example), the chances are really slim.

Of course, Ramiro Pruneda, a left tackle in the ONEFA, has just signed with the Chiefs. He's got his chance now, and if he can make it into the roster, it'll be big. Pruneda, however, is one case in all these years (except for kickers)... I sincerely doubt that it can repeat itself soon.

Right now, I honestly think that there are enough parts of the world that go crazy about football to extend the league to 17 games and play an extra one where both teams are visitors (maybe even some other cities in the U.S.?). I also think, however, that the NFL has slapped both Mexico (thank you for the Cards-49ers game, NFL, I'm guessing the Browns-Raiders wasn't available this year) and Germany (the ONLY place that supports "NFL Europa" in the whole continent, hosting almost all of the teams... and they don't give them the first overseas game?), and if it doesn't fix it soon, I think the hype around football could fizzle. "Strike while the iron is hot" doesn't seem to be the NFL's point of view...

32
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:32pm

17/31:

I agree that a German city deserved the game more than London. Without German support (and Amsterdam), NFL Europa would probably be a distant memory. 5 of the 6 NFL Europa teams play in Germany and, in a possible expansion, it will probably be 7 of 8. I'm a little surprised the NFL didn't try to consolidate their ONE foothold on the continent a little bit better.

Re: 30

I actually think that in the next 25 years we'll see a truly international (cross-hemisphere) sports league (I don't think it will be football). Advances in airplane technology will cut down travel times significantly to make this feasible. My guess would be that soccer or basketball would be the first to expand in this manner.

33
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:40pm

What teams do you think are the most on the bubble to relocate? Buffalo, Jacksonville, New Orleans? Maybe Al Davis would move the Raiders back to LA or some other team move based on NOT getting a stadium?

What US cities do you think would be most likley to get a team? Los Angles, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Sacramento, Portland, Las Vegas, Columbus?

What international cities? Tornoto, London, Mexico City?

34
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:45pm

What about those Jets that can fly from NY to LA in an hour. I'm not saying they will become commerical but if the commericial technology improves that would be awsome to have european/asian teams in the NBA or MLB as well.

The Tokyo samoris vs the Frankfort Brewers.

35
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 1:06pm

Travel problems can be dealt with. Assuming you add more than one team overseas so not every game involves a transatlantic flight. The Giants play at home on Sunday, fly to London on Monday, practice Tuesday-Saturday, play Sunday, fly back to NY on Monday, practice Tuesday-Saturday, play at home Sunday. How is that not feasible?

36
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 1:26pm

35- Giants to London isn't much of a problem, but what about Seattle, SD, SF, Oakland or Arizona to London?

They might have to realign divisions so that sort of thing won't happen. But making an NFC/AFC east/west thing might or might not work as well.

37
by Sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 1:34pm

Decreasing travel times would be a must, but there are significant cultural issues that might be harder to solve. Someone did a survey of NBA players a couple years back and found the vast majority had no desire to ever play in Canada because they just weren't comfortable with whole foreign country thing (the higher Canadian taxes were a part of that). If guys balk at Toronto, can you imagine what they'd think about Frankfurt or anyplace else where English isn't widely spoken and the time difference means you can't just call your family in the States whenever you feel like it? To be successful, a foreign franchise would have to be able to compete on equal footing with the rest of the league; players and coaches couldn't be looking at it as a stay in purgatory until they get a chance to move back to a "real" team in the US.

38
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 1:52pm

#33: Columbus will not get an NFL team. No way. City won't support it. Ohio State is just far, far too big, and the city is not nearly as big as the TV market implies.

#32: I think London as the first overseas city is more of a logistics issue. It's closer, the language is the same, and the culture is similar. Given that the requests for tickets for the game went through the roof, I think it's a little unfair to say that Germany "deserved" it. Clearly there's enough demand in London as well.

39
by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 1:58pm

London is also far more international than any other German city you care to name, so a better commercial prospect.
On subject of international league, precedent is Super 14 a Rugby Union competition for sides in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They manage it by arranging atour structure. You play all your away games in one country at a time thus travel out there and stay say for three weeks. Seems to work well.

40
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 2:30pm

Englishbob- I am not going to disagree that London is a big time international city but I lived 3 years in frankfort and it is very international as well.

41
by Sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 3:11pm

#38: It certainly would have made more sense from a marketing perspective to have the game in Germany. That's where their headquarters is; having the game there would only be logical since it would give the local team a boost. Having it in London says what exactly? That they really wish they hadn't folded the Monarchs? That they're not fully comfortable in countries where English isn't the official language? There's no question they can occasionally fill a stadium in London--the first World Bowl in 1991 proved that. My guess is everybody who works with NFL Europa wanted the game in Germany but the commissioner's office nixed that idea because London resonates more with US fans and was an easier sell to the teams.

42
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 3:14pm

38:

Pat, my point was that Germany has given the NFL something (a viable NFL Europa). Frankly, the UK hasn't (two unsupported franchises). I'm sure the NFL has researched this and that London serves their purposes better but I still think German fans got a bit of the shaft on this.

39:

Englishbob, interesting point about a tour-type structure with regards to an international league. I see that being easier for basketball and soccer than football, but the idea certainly has merit.

43
by UK-Phil (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 3:42pm

Does anyone else just not get the part The name of the league has been changed to NFL Europa, to more closely identify it with fans in Europe, and we have a new logo?

How does NFL Europa more closely identify with Europe than NFL Europe? It just sounds gimmickly and to me identifies more closely with moons of Jupiter. Now there's a road trip!

44
by Zac (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 4:03pm

Babelfish says Europa is German for Europe. So, yes, I think they understand that Germany is the only place football is catching on.

45
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 4:07pm

It resonates with Scandinavians too I expect - Europa Universalis!

46
by DWL (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 4:30pm

Maybe he didn't answer the questions in depth or provide anything "juicy" because he was not talking to a "major" (ESPN, FOX, etc) media outlet.

If the NFL has a big splash and/or announcement to make, my guess is that FO is not going to be the place they do it (yet).

47
by SGT Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 4:41pm

Bland interview? Check
Unanswered questions? Check
Expectations a bit high? Check

Those checks are "reality checks". As in, lets be real guys. Anything that is going to be put out there for all to see needs one of two things. Good hard facts (like statistics) or evasive answers while they come up with good hard facts/numbers.

Right now, the numbers don't lie. UK isn't getting a team because the numbers weren't there. Germany got the shaft? To a German, certainly. To anyone who is trying to see a Deutsche point of view, without a doubt. To anyone with any kind of marketing sense, there are many grey areas to consider. If you think the NFL just blatantly ignored Germany without thought, then you aren't thinking very hard.

It's the difference between my Browns having a great Pass defense these last few years, but still losing horribly. On this site, you are taught to look beyond the basic numbers. Take NOTHING at face value. You saw the face value of Germany over England (and it's a pretty good looking face at this juncture) but what else is there to it? Until you can answer those questions, don't judge. Otherwise, my Cleveland Browns are great pass defenders because they give up fewer passing yards than a bunch of other teams. And not because they are usually playing from behind and can't stop the run from crap. Teams run on us because they know we'll stop the pass. Seems a bit dumb when we know the real reasons behind the "success" in our PD huh? You don't know all the reasons for London, you can only speculate.

48
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 4:48pm

What if they wanted to bring a "real game" to the UK to spice up excitement before they bring back a Europa team?

49
by W Shedd (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 5:03pm

Great questions. I'm impressed by the readers especially and the geographic diversity of interest.

However, abso-freakin'-lutely meaningless blah-blah-blah answers.

For a league that prides itself on on-field qualities as physical strength, determination, character, and intelligence ... it sure does come across as a bunch of fearful executive panty-waists all worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing and rocking the boat.

50
by Sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 6:14pm

Re. #48:

"...at this point there are no plans to re-introduce British teams."

It was about the only question the guy answered directly.

51
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 7:42pm

37: I think that given the choice between making millions playing football, even with higher taxes, and not making millions playing football, most professional quality football players would gladly choose to make millions playing football. Given the NBA/MLB Canadian teams as a test, how many players do we know of who turned down contract offers specifically because they didn't want to play in Canada? Steve Francis comes to mind, but I can't remember if it was Canada per se, or not wanting to play for the Grizzlies.

52
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 8:01pm

#42: Part of my point was that clearly, there's sufficient demand in London for an NFL game. Germany already has American football support from the NFL via NFLE, so in some sense, if the game had gone there, you'd be screwing the British fans in that case - "they get the World Bowl and the first overseas game. we'd have just as much demand here, why not spread the wealth?" You can make an argument for either side.

Clearly, they should've done two games in one year. :)

Really, I think it's primarily the logistics issue.

53
by Sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2007 - 9:55pm

51: I have no further knowledge than that poll (it may have been done by SI, but I can't recall for sure). But, it doesn't take guys outright refusing to play for a team for it to do serious harm. If for any reason a franchise is low on a majority of players' lists, it's at a serious disadvantage until that can be changed. But being located halfway around the world from basically all your players' friends and family isn't something you can change. Sure, guys would rather play in Europe than not at all. But many would be counting the days until they could move back over here. That would be a tough obstacle to overcome.

What struck me most about that poll was it was only talking about Canada--where language and time differences aren't issues at all. Moving overseas is a big step, even if you love it over there and are engrossed by foreign cultures (and I'm going out on a limb and guessing that doesn't describe the average NFL player). All their family and friends would be over here. Want to call home in the morning before you head to practice? Think again because everybody over here will be fast asleep. Enjoy watching your college on Saturdays? Late games will be in the middle of the night for you. Sure, you can fly people to see you, but you're not talking about flying Grandma from Miami up to Cleveland. Travel is an all-day affair and Grandma will suffer jet lag, need a passport, have to deal with the language barrier and foreign currency. Even if the players themselves didn't have a real problem with it, their family and friends would surely prefer having them closer to home.

54
by Igor (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2007 - 12:36am

#40-Where in Frankfurt? I've lived four years in Bergen-Enkheim and enjoyed it a lot.

#48-That would be the same as sending Real Madrid and Chelsea to play a friendly in Pittsburgh in order to drum up excitment for a MLS team. People that would go see Real Madrid will not keep a MLS franchise alive.

#51-T-Mac got the hell outta Toronto as soon as his contract ran out. Also there has never been a superstar FA signing by Toronto. The only thing close to it would be a 38 year old Olajuwon and that was after he was not wanted anymore in Houston and not even half the player he was during his prime.

55
by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2007 - 4:41am

You have to remember that the Monarchs in their first incantation were very well supported, in fact had the highest attendances of all the teams involved. The NFL ruined its prospects in the UK when it scrapped the World League to save money. You can not just turn on and off teams and loyalty like that. I was one of those who went to the Monarchs games in the first two season, even though the play was of very low quality- we didn't care as at least it was our team. When they came back after the break there was no way I was going to support them, I guess a lot of fans felt the same.
They then tried moving the team around England so it never developed a home base- entire mgmt of the "UK" franchise has been awful ever since World League ended.
Also the UK is not one market- there is no way I would support a team based in Scotland and I guess a lot of English fans feel the same and the Scots vice versa.
If you re-introduce a new team for "Europa" based in a single English city (London is the obvious choice) on the back of one NFL game per season, I think it would have every chance of prospering. But please don't call them Monarchs (too many bad memories)!

56
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 03/09/2007 - 1:27am

Actually, language can be a significant issue in Canada, depending on where you are going. These days, though, that only applies to prospective Canadiens.

The MLB and NBA probably are good test cases in terms of the viability of largely-American games in other countries. Yes, Toronto has done a good job with the Blue Jays, and the Raptors are, well, there, but it wasn't that long ago that both leagues had two teams in Canada.

The only way I could see an overseas franchise being viable in the NFL is with the NBA's division concept: an entire division of European teams, rather than a single team, and entire-division road trips (so the NFC North would all fly to Europe, play four road games, and fly back). I just don't think you can manage travel here and back eight times per season, nor travel there and back once each for eight teams.

I can't say I'm surprised at the answers. These days, I think most people realize what happens when you're interviewed: say something you don't mean and you can be Googled for years afterward. Still, I'd rather have had him say "I'm sorry, I can't answer that specifically."

Seems to me that the best way to grow the sport right now would be to make as many games as possible available live by some means in as many countries as possible.

57
by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil (not verified) :: Wed, 03/14/2007 - 11:04am

Europa is the name of the continent in German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian...