28 October 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars London’s Wembly Stadium. Both teams battle through slumps to try and leap back into the playoff picture.
Andre Dixon, creator of Verge Magazine Online, is sitting at his press table awaiting the start of the third and final NFL game taking place in the United Kingdom. Unaware of who he will be watching the game with, Michael Fiorentino, a London based journalist from the US, approaches his seat.
The two spend the majority of the game discussing headlines as well of the nuances of the present NFL season. Michael, a New York Jet’s fan from New Jersey and Brooklyn, speaks of his empathy for Rookie QB Sam Darnold. While Andre, a Giants fan, echoes Michaels woes of their respective New York football teams managerial decisions as of late.
As the Eagles went on to defeat Jacksonville, a team who’s home field might wind up being in London someday, the friendship between Andre and Michael blossomed and continued past that day at Wembly. Fiorentino, who writes for NBC London, now contributes to the podcast the Sportsheads. The podcast is another creation from Dixon.
From the Sportheads, to Inside the Huddle to the Gridiron Gentlemen, American football has given the UK no shortage of where to hear about the latest NFL news. The NFL has popped in the United Kingdom, so what’s next?
The immediate response is, “Which NFL team is going to making London their home?” Ten, five, even three years prior that question would be preposterous if asked. Not anymore.
The first option to speak about is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are scheduled to become the Las Vegas Raiders at the beginning of the 2020 season but are not entirely sure where they will play all of their home games in 2019.
For a time, some believed they would play all 8 home games in London. If it comes to times of crisis, it would not be shocking if the Raiders kept London open as a temporary option. Until that time comes, however, they have one game against the Chicago Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 6 October. They will continue to play their remaining home schedule at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which is also the domicile of the MLB’s Oakland Athletics.
That brings the situation to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are only two seasons removed from being quarter of play away from reaching the Super Bowl.
The Jags are the most relevant they’ve been as an organization as they’ve been since close to the conception of the franchise back in the late 1990s. So why move to London at all?
With the most competitive roster in franchise history; consisting of talents such as Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles, should Jacksonville not remain the teams base?
For starters, team Shahid Khan is himself based in London and also owns Fulham F.C. He has also offered to buy Wembley Stadium in the past, furthering the speculation. Khan has recently pulled his bid for Wembly, yet this has not dampened the rumours of the Jags moving to London.
Robert Kidd wrote a piece for Forbes back in October, speaking more about the possibility of a team moving to London.
“NFL research shows they have more than 13 million fans in the UK, including 4 million who are ‘avid’. This includes approximately 47,000 fans who are classed as ‘season ticket holders’, as they buy tickets for every match in the UK, regardless of which teams are playing.”
Kidd went on to interview Mark Waller, NFL Executive Vice President of International and Events. “Our job is really to grow the market and make sure the market is able to accommodate a franchise in the event an owner decides they want to put a team here.”
Waller went on to say, “We feel very confident now from a fanbase perspective, from the size of the audience that we’re reaching, from the sort of business we’re generating and the support we’re getting politically.”
Whether or not a team based in London is the next move for the NFL, American football is making waves. Whether it’s the Raiders for only the 2019 season or the Jaguars on a semi to fully permanent basis, the fact that the league is seriously considering moving a team across the Atlantic tells you everything you need to know. The NFL is here to stay.