Arthur Blank's Atlanta Falcons will be one of several teams headed to London to play in three regular-season games later this year. And to hear Blank tell it, this is no gimmick; it's part of a long-term plan to bring England into the cozy NFL family. (We'll show you Brits what football really is.)
In a Q&A with MMQB's Peter King, Blank outlined his thoughts on international NFL games. "It’s proved conclusive that fans will come out when they see the real players playing games that are really meaningful, as opposed to NFL Europe," Blank said. "So I think—and all three of the games for 2014 sold out immediately, 240,000 tickets—the league, as you know, has been in discussion about a fourth game, in discussion about games beyond that."
Beyond that? Why, what ever could go beyond that...?
"There’s been discussion about potentially having a franchise in London," Blank said. "I’m very optimistic. The approach that the international committee and the commissioner have taken is, ‘Let’s do London right, and then move from there to potentially somewhere else.’ I’m sure there are wonderful cities in Europe, and elsewhere."
There are indeed wonderful cities in Europe and elsewhere. But could they support regular-season NFL franchises? Because that Denver-to-Rome-to-San Diego road trip is going to be brutal.
It all starts with London, though, and Blank is highly optimistic about the prospects of a team setting up shop there. How soon? "Less than you’d think," he says. Whoa!
It's parsing Blank's speech too closely to think that he's privy to some secret NFL deal to put more than one team in Europe (though, if we're taking nominations, we say send Johnny Football and the Browns to the other side of the pond, just for the resulting circus). There's no doubt, though, that the NFL is seeking to up its international presence ... and no, Buffalo's Toronto jaunts don't count.
The logistics of travel and scheduling have long served as roadblocks (or, uh, ocean-blocks?) to a team in London. Really, the only way a London team would work would be in an East Coast division, minimizing the nine-hour flights to play Seattle or San Francisco. But if the London Crumpets or Bobbies or Tardises or whatever do in fact become a reality, count us in for buying some new soccer-themed NFL gear.