Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Jan 2012

Rams Become London's Home Team

St. Louis will "host" New England in London next season, and will also be the designated home team across the pond for two more years after that.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 20 Jan 2012

59 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2012, 1:07pm by Chris UK


by PatsFan :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 4:55pm

What exactly did the UK do to deserve this?

by dryheat :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 7:07pm

They taxed the God-damned tea.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 7:25pm


by Rhys :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 1:10am

Never Forget.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 3:07pm

....and put milk in it, the limey bastards.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 7:16pm

If you've ever compared British tea to anyone else's, you'd understand why.

by James-London :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 9:31am

No-one else knows how to make proper Tea. Why d'you think we take our own abroad? Still doesn't mean we deserve the Rams...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 4:55pm

This is a devious ploy of Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams and north London's Arsenal football club, to get his team to move to London permanently. Watch out St. Louis, before you know it the team will be called the gunners and they will be shooting cannon in the dome.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:46pm

Unlikely. It wouldn't be practical for the stadium he owns in London to be used for both soccer and football.

by deep64blue :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 8:32am

The Draft would be illegal under European Law so I really can't see a permanent team here, but perhaps a team playing 2-4 games a year might work.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 10:50am

Would it still be illegal if the team was a US company and the players were primarily resident in the States, only coming over for the season?

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 12:48pm

I doubt we'll get a permanent franchise anyway, but if we did I'm sure they'd be able to work something out legally to make such a move more equivalent to a MLS team or a rock band touring than a permanent company subject to European law. I fully expect that the players would still be contracted in the US.

What does crack me up is the notion of a London franchise playing in the NFC West. So, 49ers and Seahawks, you think cross-country travel is bad NOW? How's this for a divisional game?

by tuluse :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 6:08pm

The draft is technically illegal in the States too, the NFL gets a special exemption.

If an NFL team were to move to London, I'm guessing it would be conditional on getting a similar exemption.

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 6:29pm

If it's conditional on that, then it won't happen.

I'd elaborate, but that's politics talk.

by tuluse :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 6:39pm

I don't really know anything about British politics, so fair enough.

Maybe they could find a loophole then where they are just visiting London 8 times a year and not actually residing in or employed bye a British entity.

by Mr Shush :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 12:10am

It's not actually British politics that matter in this case, at least as things stand - I'm pretty certain that's the kind of thing that's determined at EU level. Of course, by the time it became an issue there might conceivably no longer be an EU or at any rate one that contains the UK (there also might not be a UK . . .)

I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that a fudge along the lines you suggest probably could and would be found.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 8:58am

Yeah, it's European politics which is a whole other kettle of fish.

As I mentioned above, I also fully expect a fudge/workaround would be found so the players were subject to US employment law rather than European, as that simplifies everything for the league and those involved with the franchise.

by NickMan (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 11:31am

If there's enough money at stake, it will. Call me cynical, but that's the lesson of politics in any country.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 1:30pm

The European Parliament has already demonstrated that it won't make special exceptions to its employment law just to pander to sport - and in the most notable case (the infamous Bosman ruling), the sport in question was soccer which has way more money and political influence in Europe than the NFL could even dream of.

It's not just the draft, either. Restricted free agency, franchise tags, player movement and contracts would all be impacted by - and potentially illegal under - European employment law.

I genuinely think the most likely means of having a European franchise - which I still don't expect will happen in the near future - would involve all of the contracts, administration, everything legal or financial about the franchise being based in the US, and it only effectively hiring Wembley for its home games.

(I'm not sure how to avoid the politics and still discuss the possibility raised here. If I'm crossing any lines, I apologise for that.)

by Dean :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 12:26am

Stating facts about what laws exist doesn't violate rule #1. Stating opinions about whether those laws are good or bad runs the risk. Besmirching individuals because you disagree with their politics definitely is a no-no. Given that, I'd be surprised if anyone thought you stepped over any boundaries. I certainly don't think you did. Thank you for the info.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 4:57am

Thanks for the elaboration. I'm still surprised I couldn't find a codified set of forum rules anywhere. All I could find was the small section in the First Time Here? link.

by Tim R :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 7:17am

I don't expect a franchise move to London any time soon, but if they were I doubt Wembley would be the stadium. One game a season is fine but a full regular season would probably make the pitch unusable by the England soccer team and there's no way the FA would give up the "home of football". The Olympic stadium or an entirely new complex seems more likely.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 8:14am

I don't disagree with your reasoning at all (Twickenham also might make sense). I simply use Wembley as Wembley currently has an exclusive rights contract with the NFL to host any regular season games played in the UK.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 10:08am

I don't think it can be Twickenham, either - I believe local regulations are very strict about the number of sporting events of any kind that can be staged there each year. The Olympic Stadium situation is obviously a huge mess, but I don't think it's likely that the post-Olympic capacity will be high enough to suit the NFL (West Ham's original plan mooted 60,000, and I believe some more recent suggestions are lower) and I'm not sure a sharing arrangement with a soccer club would work anyway (otherwise the Emirates and prospective new Chelsea and Spurs stadia would also be candidates).

I think if the NFL wants to move a team to London it will either have to build its own stadium or use several different existing ones. Maybe they could find a site out towards Essex/Kent, served by Crossrail, Orbital Rail and the Thames Estuary Airport - I think that's the sort of timeframe we're realistically looking at, no?

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:03pm

I don't think St. Louis will be leaving because they have a tremendous agreement they negotiated with the city. Basically the city didn't have professional negotiators and the Rams just piled in all these clauses into the lease that are absurd. For example keeping the stadium state-of-the-art every 5 years.

Right now the Rams are starting to push to enforce some of those provisions. This will give them some leverage there, and help cause their attendance sucks. But I have a hard time imagining they would abandon that sweetheart lease.

I would bet many teams don't want to play in London but the Rams' owner may have volunteered due to his other business interests.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:49pm

I tend to suspect that this is just a leverage ploy as well, but at the same time, if Kronke can make significantly more money playing in some other market, he'll move. And I actually think the NFL owners would be more likely to allow him to move to London than to Los Angeles for the simple reason that as soon as the LA market has a team, it becomes a lot harder for the other 31 owners to threaten to move to LA when their leases come up. Those owners all lose a lot of leverage as soon as that city gets another team they can ignore.

by Ferguson1015 :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:08pm

Whoa Whoa Whoa. The New England Patriots are playing in England as the "Away" team? It's just too bad they aren't playing against the cardinals or the 49ers because we could then refer to them as "red coats"

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:37pm

They were the "Away" team the last time they played in London, too.

by opticallog :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:21pm

As a niners fan, I'm excited for this modest yearly schedule advantage.

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:40pm

What I'm wondering is whether the NFL could possibly have agreed a more potentially one-sided matchup.

Of course, now that I've posted my wondering, the Rams will win.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:49pm

Hey, it could happen --- if the Patriots leave Brady at home so he doesn't have to go through jet lag. Why risk having him sluggish the following week?

by greybeard :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:48pm

Every team except for Tampa went to playoffs the year after they play the London game. That is 7 out of 8. London gives you wings.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 5:54pm

I'm going to predict that string is broken this time. Neither Bucs nor Bears in the playoffs in 2012.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 7:29pm

I don't know - before Cutler got hurt, the Bears were as good as or better than anyone in the conference save Green Bay and maybe New Orleans and San Francisco. Bears fans have to feel good about their chances.

Frankly, had he not been injured, there's an excellent chance they'd have beaten at least Denver and Kansas City, and knocked Detroit out of the 6th spot this year. Heck, I give it better than even odds they'd have taken the 5 away from Atlanta.

by RickD :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 2:42pm

Agree with this. Before the injuries to Cutler and Forte, the Bears were clearly one of the top six teams in the NFC. At the time I thought they were fourth behind GB, SF, and NO.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 7:51pm

5 hours, 6 hours, whats the difference?

by Vicarfish :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 7:54pm

As a London based fan, I'm kinda happy that I won't have to bother spending £80 going to Wembley this year

by Jerry :: Fri, 01/20/2012 - 11:18pm

So, if I'm a longtime Rams season ticketholder who's been sitting through a lot of crappy football for the last several years, I find out that my once-in-eight-years chance to see the Patriots is being moved to London? Thanks for your loyalty to St. Louis, Mr. Kroenke.

by Theo :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 3:51pm

I'm surprised they stick to London.
The NFL was way more successful in Germany.
I guess Wembley is the biggest stadium they could find.
What happened with the games in the Aztec stadium?

by Joseph :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 4:37pm

I think the reasons that they haven't returned to Estadio Azteca are 1) Security; 2) It's a soccer field, regularly used for Club America (iirc), not to mention many home games for the Mexican national team; 3) Mexico the country and Mexico City, although modern in many aspects (and I live 1 hr. from Mexico City), are not as modern as London nor the rest of the UK; 4) I don't know about the regular schedule of the EPL or UEFA champions league, but Mexico's soccer calendar coincides with football--and they are just starting the new season (tomorrow is week 3 of 17)--thus making it harder to change up the stadium for 1 special game; 5) I bet they can make more $$$ in London on tickets, jerseys, etc.; 6) The altitude is higher than Denver (I don't know what the altitude is, but I live at 9,000 ft!), making it difficult for conditioning, etc.
All in all, money probably trumps everything else, but I am sure these factors play a part. For all I know, SF & ARI players who played here a few years back may have told the NFL/Commissioner that it was horrible and that they'd tell everybody in the NFLPA to never do it again. But I'd bet that $$$ is the biggest factor.

by dryheat :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 6:29pm

You could've stopped at 1)

by Mr Shush :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 12:05am

No EPL or Champions League games are played at Wembley - the only soccer matches there are international games and the final stages of various knock-out tournaments (FA Cup, League Cup, Football League playoffs etc.) There will be a couple of weekends that are ruled out by England home matches, but that's it. EPL games will in all probability) be taking place in London on the same day, but not at Wembley.

This may be one factor in the choice of London over Berlin: the Olympiastadion is an eminently suitable venue (though slightly smaller than Wembley) but Hertha Berlin play their home games there. Then again, it may just be that the NFL finds it more straightforward not having to worry about any language issues on the administrative side.

by Chris UK :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 4:49pm

As an English fan who has been to all the London games I have two observations. Firstly I cannot understand anyone other than home fans being bothered by a London game. The NFL clearly wants to grow across Europe and when the idea first floated there were 0.5m registers of interest in tickets, so revenue from a 90k stadium is more than teams get at home. All of the teams that sell out at home would never come across anyway. So for teams like New England you get 9 home games and the team you are stomping gets more money. I'd be interested in who Jerry is a fan of and if it isn't the Rams, why he cares.

The other point is that having the Rams for three years is a stupid idea that virtually guarantees poor attendance. UK fans have a team they follow already and having the Rams here will change nothing. When the "EPL" suggested 39 games in a season and one abroad the sentiment from the US was that only top teams would sell out in the US. The same is true here, all I am hearing from UK NFL fans is that they have saved us £80 per year for the next three years. Pats fans will outnumber Rams fans 5 to 1 next year and it won't sell out.

by Jerry :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 7:41pm

Since you asked, I'm a Pittsburgh fan who attends all their home games. A lot of those games have run together over the years, but there are a few I particularly look forward to every year. (Of course, matchups that look good in January may be less appealing in October, as this year's Colts proved.) For the past decade, visits from New England have been among those I anticipate. I'd anticipate them even more if the Patriots were in the other conference and only came in once every eight years, and I'd be extremely disappointed if I lost a rare chance to see, say, Aaron Rodgers.

I have no problem with good teams plating in London. If the league wants the Pats there, move a Dolphins home game across the pond. Don't deprive the St. Louis fans of their opportunity to see Brady. I'm glad you got to see him put up 300 yards against Tampa Bay; it's just a shame that Bucs fans never had that chance.

by Chris UK :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 7:59pm

That's the thing, you as a Steelers fan will never lose a home game to London because you sell out. St. Louis don't. I agree that if I were a Rams fan I would be annoyed that they took a home game to London, but the NFL has shown they are committed to this game each year and they know no one would pay to see a pre season game now they have built the fanbase up so much. I still don't really understand how if you're a fan of a team that sells out and would never give a home game up to London why it would bother you enough to say you are against it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 12:28am

1. NFL owners make more on TV revenue than on ticket sales. (There's a reason NCAA stadia have larger capacities than NFL stadia)
2. NFL owners already make money on people paying to see pre-season games.

by Chris UK :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 5:40am

I understand that, but they aren't going to lose out on TV revenue by playing in London are they?

by Jerry :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 7:19am

I can't have empathy for Rams fans? I can also imagine the league deciding that international outreach is important enough to move more games overseas, and requiring everyone to give up the odd home game.

My point is that if the Rams are going to play games in London, they shouldn't move their rare and valuable Patriots appearance. Even their Packer game would be a bit better, since Green Bay will be back in six years instead of eight, and there's a reasonable chance they'll find their way back to St. Louis before then.

And, to be clear, I'm not complaining about the idea of moving games overseas, and I understand that Rams-Seahawks as currently constituted isn't very appealing on any continent. It's just a matter of finding a way to do this that doesn't screw a team's home fans. An obvious first step is not to move interconference matchups.

by Chris UK :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 7:38am

I didn't say you can't have empathy for Rams fans, and am not trying to have an argument. Being from across the pond I know how much the London game means to the European fan base, and I wanted an idea from people, such as yourself, who attend all their teams home games as to how they feel about this issue.

Thank you for clarifying what you meant about moving the Patriots game. I understand that missing out on Brady's last appearance in St. Louis would hurt were I a fan there. The Patriots are by a mile the most supported team in England, and therefore I guess that is why we are seeing so much of them.

It is an interesting point about not moving interconference match ups, and I certainly wouldn't want to see Divisional matchups moved either.

The NFL has an interesting decision to make now that they are in this position. They were struggling to sell out Bears Bucs this year. I know several people who will not attend Patriots "@" Rams because of the mis-match, and the suggestion (not by you) that the NFL should send pre-season games to London would now fail because you have the fan base accustomed to regular season games.

Personally I love the NFL coming to London and will continue to support it, but trying to force the Rams on London will likely fail. Since the NFL started the London game viewing figures have gone up massively. If they had designated a "home" team in the first place the new fans may very well have started following them. But growing a fanbase that have all chosen a team to support and then sending the Rams every year seems illogical.

by dryheat :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 10:44am

It's a TV rights issue. The Rams opponent needed to be an AFC team. The only two AFC teams that visit St. Louis next year are New England and New York.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 3:59am

Hard to tell whether the Bears-Bucs attendance was partly/largely due to the strike though - we didn't know if we would have a London game till quite late in the day.

Its the only game I didn't attend also - though that was because I was in Tokyo, rather than any lack of interest on my part.

Will I desert the Raiders for the Rams? I may have wished to many times over the past 25 years but thats not the way fandom works is it - even with no real connection other than a 1 in 28 chance back during the Reagan administration. I've spent too many nights in the past 25yrs sitting up listening to fading in/out armed forces network, racing across Leeds' newsagents in the vague hope they have a copy of First Down, and staying up till all hours watching on TV, to change my allegiances now!

But thats not necessarily the case for (a) the legion of new fans that have been brought to the game over the past 5 seasons - as reflected in the TV viewing figures which are showing amazing growth - frankly I never thought we'd be anything other than a small minority fan-base again after the "dark days" of the late 1990s. Well done NFL, Alistair Kirkwood, and well done Sky.
And (b) my kids can pick the Rams. They might even get to cheer occasionally if the Rams sign someone for Bradford to throw to!

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 8:59am

I've stopped attending partly because of the cost, partly because of unappealing match-ups, but mostly because having now experienced a number of live NFL games, I've come to the conclusion that I would rather watch the Texans on TV than a team I don't support live. I don't know how typical that is, but I wouldn't rule out "the novelty has worn off" as a factor. If so, maybe trying to build support for a single franchise in the UK is the way to go.

by Chris UK :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 1:07pm

I can empathise with both this and Mr Shush below. However being relatively new to the NFL (watched Sky coverage since late 90's) I never experienced the late 80s early 90s void that peoplekeep mentioning. I started supporting the Jets when the only place I knew to get an NFL jersey in the UK was a shop in Birmingham that I found in First Down. Being from the North East that was a hell of an effort for a Green Glenn Foley jersey.

Fans new to the sport may like the idea of having a team they see every year to get behind. For that reason, I guess the new approach might have the desired effect. Having spent a year at an American college, all the other players on my soccer team supported Man Utd in the EPL because they were winning all the time, as a comparison, I didn't come across anybody supporting Wolverhampton Wanderers (except my fellow Englishman on the team).

by Solomon :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 5:16pm

Too bad the NFL did not make the Patriots the designated home team.

I thought I read earlier that the NFL planned to rotate all 32 teams through London twice with each team losing one home game over that span. Apparently, the "have-nots" will lose more home games than the "haves".

The old system of having only preseason (not regular season) games in Europe was better.

by tuluse :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 6:10pm

Where did you read or hear about that plan?

From my understanding a team has to volunteer to be the home team. So yes, the poorer teams are going to be more willing to volunteer, but if anything it's a mechanism to help them earn revenue.

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 01/21/2012 - 6:28pm

The old system of having only preseason (not regular season) games in Europe was better.

Better for whom? It certainly wasn't better for the European fans.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 01/22/2012 - 12:21am

Should be the Giants, who are functionally +2 extra home games in the last decade.

(The Katrina game, and "@"NYJ)

by RS Gaucho (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 9:26am

But there was also the Jets@Giants match!

by Dean :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 12:42am

I know I'm not the only Rams fan who posts here (although it does feel that way sometimes), so I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in even though I don't really have a strong opinion.

Ultimately, this is "just business." That alone is enough to make it outrageous to some people. Any time a business acts in their own self-interest, certain people get angry. Going further down this thread will violate rule #1, so I'll stop there.

Kronke plays his cards close to the vest. He hasn't made any promises that he won't move the team, but why should he? There's no gain to him for voluntarily forgoing that leverage.

The town in general seems fairly fatalistic about it. Either he'll move the team, or he won't. Either way, the Cardinals will still matter more. The day Jeff Fisher got hired, afternoon drive-time on ESPN Radio promptly broke away from the story to go interview some baseball player. Some of this may be due to the fact that a team has already moved away once. Some of it may be the fact that the Rams haven't been here but 15 or so years. I think most of it is that this is simply a baseball town, and perhaps the only market in America where the NFL is actually a genuinely distant #2 to MLB. Which frustrates the holy hell out of me.

To be fair, there are a handful of die hards and they are genuinely distraught about it. But those fans are going to continue to support the team regardless of any rumors. They might be upset, but they'll continue to go to the games right up until an announcement about a move is made.

As for the Patriots, it's kind of a bummer, but I get it. Again, it's just business. And again, the only ones who will be genuinely upset are the die hards who will support the team regardless, and they make up such a small portion of the town that to a large extent they really don't matter. I actually know more die hard St. Louis Blues fans than I do die hard Rams fans.

I'm making this a bit long winded - go figure - but the majority of this town simply doesn't care.

As for me, I'm not from here and don't have any ties here so I'm not vested in the Rams. One less home game is a bummer, but if the team makes a business decision that they can be a more viable franchise elsewhere, I can respect that and shrug it off. It's not the metaphorical end of the world like the Colts and Browns were.