NFL hedges bets on UK as obstacles remain

TAGs: Boris Johnson, Jacksonville Jaguars, London, New England Patriots, NFL, st louis rams, USA

nfl londonPlans are apparently afoot to use the Olympic Stadium to lure a permanent NFL franchise to London. The Telegraph reports that discussions over the weekend between London Mayor Boris Johnson and the league saw both sides looking at further ways to expand the sport with a permanent franchise thought to be one of the options discussed.

“Given the ever-growing popularity of gridiron this side of the Atlantic the mayor and his team have held a number of meetings with senior executives in the last few days to explore further opportunities for NFL in London,” spokesperson for the mayor told the Telegraph. “The talks were exploratory and we are at an early stage but the signs are encouraging.”

One of the most likely teams to take up the spot is Shahid Khan’s Jacksonville Jaguars, who have just signed a deal to take up a temporary tenancy at the stadium for the next four years. There are several barriers in the way of a team finding a permanent home in London though and distance isn’t likely to be the most difficult.

If you take the average flight time from New York to San Francisco it weighs in at around five hours. Compare that to seven hours from the East Coast city to England’s capital and the flight time is obviously not a problem. The climate, for an East Coast team, will be slightly similar and the season could be configured to allow the team to play home games in groups of four or the full eight to alleviate jet lag or any other effects of travelling on the home side.

One of the main problems that we can see with the NFL moving a franchise to the UK is that it completely rails against their position in the USA regarding sports betting becoming widespread and, in their minds, influencing the outcome of games. As we know too well the NFL is part of a lawsuit brought against the state of New Jersey to prevent them allowing sports betting at the state’s racetracks and casinos. If the team was to take up a tenancy at the Olympic Stadium they might notice that within spitting distance there are betting shops where punters can bet to their hearts content and Vegas style sports betting inside the adjacent Aspers casino – which, incidentally, is the UK’s largest.

William Hill, one of the only firms to be offering prop bets on a team moving here, confirmed to that it has set a cautious bar of 4/1 on a team arriving by the year 2020. There are a number of factors to throw into the mix not least whether a team could actually garner enough support to hold eight games a season in the UK. That’s before you even consider any of the other ramifications. Two games being held here next season moves us closer towards a team becoming a reality and if the trial with Jacksonville goes well…watch this space.

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