Potential London NFL franchise

The London NFL franchise is a hypothetical National Football League (NFL) American football team based in London, England; formed as a new expansion team, or by relocating one of the existing 32 NFL teams currently based in the United States. Should the league establish a team in London, it would become the first of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada to establish a franchise outside either of those two countries.

A London NFL franchise would be intended to grow the league's revenues and provide further access to the United Kingdom and European markets. However, the agreement of league owners is needed to undertake an expansion or relocation, and a London franchise would face financial, legal and logistical challenges. Possible home stadiums for the London team include one or more of Wembley Stadium, Twickenham Stadium or Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The NFL is aiming to establish a London franchise by around 2025, and has the active support of the UK government. Since 2007, the league has held multiple regular season games in London each season as part of NFL London Games, allowing the league to test solutions to some of the challenges facing a hypothetical London franchise.

Background

Although American football in the United Kingdom has historically been a niche sport, British interest in the NFL peaked in the 1980s, in which time London hosted some pre-season games; during the 1990s, the city hosted the London Monarchs in the league's developmental Europe League.[1] However, as all NFL Europe franchises outside Germany and the Netherlands, the Monarchs were ultimately relocated due to lack of public interest. Popular interest waned with the growth of the Premier League in the 1990s, although it grew again from 2007 following the establishment of the International Series. It also led to steady increases in actual participation in amateur games.[1]

Mechanics

An affirmative vote of three-quarters of the owners of the NFL's 32 clubs is required before a new team can be created (known as expansion) or before an existing team is allowed to move to a new market (known as relocation), i.e. 24 or more clubs would have to approve of the decision.[2][3]

According to The Guardian, as of 2015 it was "well-known" that a London franchise was a goal of the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, although "he tends to avoid specifics on the process to make that happen".[4] The NFL's Executive Vice President International Mark Waller is more specific, expressing the goal as "to build a fanbase that would be able to support a franchise".[5] According to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank speaking in 2014, "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"."[6]

Expansion franchise

In the opinion of former NFL executive Jim Bailey, the NFL would probably prefer to create a London-based franchise through the expansion route, since that would offer them more control over the process.[7] According to CBS however, as of 2012 the club owners were generally satisfied with the league's 32 team model, and would prefer a relocation.[8] According to the Associated Press, the 32 team model is seen as advantageous as it offers "competitively balanced schedules and division alignments".[2] CBS also argued that expansion teams generally struggle "for quite some time", suggesting a relocated team would be the better option from the standpoint of competitiveness.[8]

Speaking in 2012, Goodell responded positively to the prospect of creating new teams through expansion "in the foreseeable future".[2] It has been speculated that the current (2012) US market was saturated, and so it was unlikely that an expansion team within the US would generate the NFL's desired growth without a fundamental change in their funding model, such as the introduction of pay-per-view TV, which was also seen as unlikely since the league's current broadcasting contracts run to 2022.[2]

Shared franchise

According to NFL.com, one possible way to achieve a London franchise in a way that overcomes the various issues facing a London operation, which has been considered by team owners and NFL executives, is the possibility of a shared franchise, with the team playing four home games in London and four in the US, although this was not considered ideal as it could potentially weaken the appeal given the split fanbase and ultimately not achieve critical mass, in addition it would be unlikely to be attractive to London fans if it were assumed in that scenario that any such team would always play its post-season games in its US base. Speaking in 2015, Waller stated "we've never had real discussions about a shared market".[9]

Relocating a franchise

Jacksonville Jaguars

As the designated home team for the International Series, the Jacksonville Jaguars are often mentioned as the most likely existing NFL team to relocate to London, leaving their current home of TIAA Bank Field in Florida.[8][10] It is often pointed out in support that current Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is himself based in London, and also owns Fulham F.C. While Khan admits the move has been a success in terms of improving the finances and profile of what was a small and struggling franchise, he has nonetheless been reluctant to commit to a move, preferring the current arrangement.[11][12]

On March 27, 2017, it was reported by City A.M. that the Jaguars are in discussion to build a permanent training facility near Wembley Stadium. If done, the team would be the first NFL franchise to have a training facility built outside of the U.S. On April 26, 2018 it was reported that Khan had made an offer to the FA to buy Wembley Stadium.[13], although he subsequently rescinded that offer.

Franchises with market knowledge

As well as the Jacksonville Jaguars, the fact that some other existing franchises have owners with knowledge of the British market due to also owning United Kingdom based sports teams, such as the Glazer family's ownership of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers based in Tampa, Florida and Manchester United leads to them being suggested as potential relocation candidates. Up until their move to Los Angeles was announced in January 2016, this also included the former St. Louis Rams owned by Arsenal F.C.'s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke.[14]

Franchises with short leases

The fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars have a short term lease on its stadium is also often used to support media speculation that the franchise may be the one to relocate to London. This was also the case for the former St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers until their respective moves to Los Angeles in 2016 and 2017 (even so, although the Rams will own their stadium and are almost certain to stay in Los Angeles for the long-term, the Chargers will be leasing a stadium and have not yet established a fan base, leaving open the possibility for another relocation), and the Oakland Raiders until relocation to Las Vegas was approved in 2017.[14][15]

The most immediate likely candidate for relocation is the Carolina Panthers. The cost to terminate the Panthers' agreement to use Bank of America Stadium after the 2018 season is relatively small, and the team's incoming owner, David Tepper, does not have any significant ties to the Carolinas and has been tepid in his support of keeping the team in the region, stating upon assuming ownership in July 2018 "Charlotte is a logical place (... but) you're asking me too much. The only thing I have a market on right now is a lack of knowledge. I'll call it stupidity." [16] Like the Raiders, the timing of the team's sale and stadium agreement is less than ideal, since the league does not intend to put a team in London on such short notice.

The Raiders, lacking a stadium for 2019, were said to have an "extreme long shot" at playing all of their home games in London that year, should all other options fail. Cost and logistics concerns made this scenario unlikely, and the Raiders ultimately decided to renew their agreement with the Oakland Coliseum after initially stating they would not do so.[17]

Weaker franchises

As happened with the Buffalo Bills in 2014, even franchises with relatively long lease agreements but which are otherwise seen as struggling in their own market, are often named by the media as potential candidates for relocation to London, on the basis that those advocating relocation to a more lucrative market would be offering more money than those proposing to stay put. In the specific case of the Bills, it was however suggested that the NFL would oppose relocation since they were the only NFL team which played in New York state (the New York Jets and New York Giants being located in a shared stadium in New Jersey).[18] The Bills' lease, which is effectively unbreakable in the short-term, has an exit window in 2019 and expires in 2022, coincidentally the same year as the NFL's target for a London franchise.

Countering one reason often cited as why the Jaguars would move, their low attendances, it has been argued that there are other franchises such as the Buccaneers with even lower attendances and less potential for growth in their own market in comparison.[19]

Multiple franchises

Given the size of London, it has even been suggested by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank that there could ultimately be more than one franchise located in London, although not before a team in another European country.[6]

Potential stadiums

One potential advantage for London as a market for an NFL franchise is that all of the likely stadiums for the franchise have already been built, with two of them being built in the 21st century and having sufficient modern amenities to host such a team. This eliminates the expense, currently over one billion United States dollars, of constructing a stadium for the team that meets NFL specifications.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium, England's national football (soccer) stadium, was rebuilt and re-opened in 2007, and was the first venue for International Series games in that same year. It was built with locker rooms which are twice the size usually found in soccer venues, which allows them to accommodate a 53-man NFL roster.[1]

Wembley is expected to remain the exclusive venue until at least the second game of the 2016 programme (October 23). The stadium's owners, the Football Association, are reportedly interested in using Wembley as the base of a London team, but it has been suggested by the Telegraph that they may struggle to accommodate a full programme of NFL games, as well as hosting the England national football team. Another potential issue is the natural grass pitch (following the first International Series game, the pitch was upgraded to a partly artificial Desso surface[1]) – England team manager Roy Hodgson having previously complained about the state of the surface after just two International Series games,[10] claiming one player injured their ankle in 2014 because of the cut-up pitch. [20] The issue of NFL markings still being partly visible during soccer matches has also been criticised in the media.[20]

To test the implications of a full season at Wembley, the NFL scheduled two International Series games over two weekends, followed by an England soccer game, to see how the surface copes.[14] Wembley earns an estimated £500,000 to £1 million per NFL game in profit;[10] due to the debt incurred in building it, the BBC commented that maximising the number of other events staged at Wembley is vital to the FA's financial health, believing the benefit of the consistent revenue stream of 8 NFL games a year would not escape their attention. Although mindful of the calendar, according to the stadium's managing director speaking in 2013, "Football [(soccer)] is our priority but yes, I'm absolutely confident that if Roger Goodell wanted to have a franchise here, we could absolutely deliver on it."[21]

One possible method of accommodating the full schedule of an NFL franchise that the FA is investigating (as of 2014), is playing some home England fixtures at other football stadiums around the country, something which had not been done since the stadium had been reopened. A 10-year restriction on having to play all home games at Wembley expired in 2017, although Wembley remains the regular home of the team.[22] Supporting the idea, the BBC contrasted the low attendances of some England soccer friendlies at Wembley, which reached a record low of 40,181 in 2014, surpassing the previous record of 48,876 in 2011, with the 80,000 crowds for the 2014 three game International Series.[23]

In April 2018, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan placed a bid on Wembley Stadium in an effort to solidify the Jaguars' presence in the city;[24] this offer was retracted in October 2018.[25]

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

On July 8, 2015 it was announced that the NFL had agreed to stage a minimum of two games a season for a ten-year period at Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium in Northumberland Park, which was initially due to open in 2018 but has since been delayed to 2019. This was interpreted as boosting the chances of an eventual London franchise.[26][27] As a result of the deal, the stadium is to be specifically designed for both American and association versions of football. It has a retractable natural grass pitch over an artificial surface to be used for NFL (which should allow both soccer and NFL games to be played on the same weekend[27]), and with locker rooms of sufficient size to accommodate the 53-man size of an NFL team roster. Its proposed capacity of 61,000 was described a being more appropriate for the day to day requirements of an NFL franchise than Wembley's 84,000.[4][27] It has been suggested the design will also eliminate the issue at Wembley whereby the lowest 5,000 seats cannot be used because spectator's view of the pitch is obstructed by the various officials, coaches and players who stand on the sidelines during an NFL game.[28] The architect, Populous, has previously designed 14 NFL stadiums.[27]

Twickenham Stadium

On November 3, 2015, the NFL also announced it had reached a deal with the Rugby Football Union to host a minimum of three games in three years at Twickenham Stadium, home of the England national rugby team, beginning from the 2016 International Series. The deal is designed to be flexible, i.e. it could involve two fixtures in one year and none the next.[29] The deal also includes an option to add two more games in the same period.[30] The three-game commitment was fulfilled in two years.

Multiple stadiums

To resolve some of the issues, it has also been suggested a London franchise may use more than one of the suggested venues as their home stadium.[10]

Issues

A number of issues need to be resolved before a London franchise can be set up; speaking in 2015 Waller stated "We feel very comfortable from a fan perspective, from a sponsor and a stadium perspective now, that we have all of the right things in place. The one thing that we’ve got to do more work on is how would it work from a team operational standpoint?"[31]

Logistics

Speaking after talks with the UK government, Dan Marino argued that probably the biggest challenge facing a London franchise is the physical logistics of moving the staff and equipment across the Atlantic for every away game. To overcome this, he speculated that the NFL might follow the example of other sports like basketball and baseball, where some teams play away games in back to back series of three or four games, allowing the team to stay in the US for this part of their schedule.[5] It has been noted that this approach may be problematic as it requires players to spend multiple weeks at a time away from home (whether home is in the US or London), something they would not have to do in a US based franchise. The NFL's use of a salary cap would also make using financial incentives to overcome this problematic.[32] For the 2018 season, the league aims to test the concept of one of the teams playing back-to-back games in London.[33]

Off-season and training camp

As well as the issue of a home stadium facility, the league has also been considering where a London franchise would hold their training camp, which begins in late July and normally involves several players not yet formally signed to the club. Similarly, another issue is whether or not it would have a base in the US for the off-season period, the gap between whenever their season ends until the start of the following training camp, in which the club will normally hold several meetings regarding staff and player contracts.[1]

As of 2014 the NFL had investigated the possibility of a London team establishing a permanent base in conjunction with a Premier League club, but it was considered unlikely for reasons of infrastructure and scheduling.[1] The league has also considered establishing a secondary base, probably in the Southeastern United States, for the London club to use for circumstances when returning to London is impractical.[33]

Fanbase

The NFL has set a target of reaching a total of 6 million "avid fans" in the UK before they will consider a London franchise viable, and surveys the UK annually to assess this figure; an avid fan being defined by the NFL as someone who says they're "extremely interested" in the NFL or that it is their favourite sport. Speaking during the 2015 International Series, Waller stated "We’re currently at four million, we were at about 2.3  million when the International Series started [in 2007]. We’re on track to reach that six million target by 2020."[34] Speaking at the start of 2016, he said "The fan base is big enough and passionate enough that it can support a franchise".[35]

It has been suggested that a significant stumbling block to creating the necessary fanbase is ironically the success of the NFL in promoting itself in the UK in the past. Many fans had been drawn into the NFL when the game was popularized in the 1980s, leading to evidence of support for all of the NFL's 32 teams in UK based fans, many of whom would be unlikely to support a London team as a first resort, i.e. being unlikely to consider them anything other than their favorite second team at best, and a potential rival at worst. As a result, while wishing to retain the support of anyone for a London team on a second favorite basis, the NFL's UK operation has been focussing on growing the fan base by reaching out to younger fans without an established allegiance, and others who are entirely new to the sport.[1][4] The NFL's UK operation has pointed to the success of the 1995 expansion team the Carolina Panthers having grown a fanbase in a previously untapped market to support the idea that a London team could do the same.[1]

In an attempt to gauge support for a London team, from the 2015 season the dates and times of the International Series games were adjusted to make them more closely resemble the home fixtures of a London team, as opposed to casting them as one off special events being timed in a fashion more convenient for a US audience.[4]

As of the 2014 International Series, 9 out of 10 tickets for the games were bought by people who live within three hours' travel of London, with 33,000 people choosing to buy a package ticket for all three games.[14] That number had risen to 40,000 repeat customers for the four-game package in 2017.[33]

The league has been encouraged by the fact that the International Series games were still attracting over 80,000 fans for a game like the Detroit Lions versus the Kansas City Chiefs on October 31, 2015, the teams which had the 24th and 31st best records in the NFL at game time, leading The Telegraph to observe that Middlesbrough vs Brentford would be the equivalent English soccer fixture on the day (based on their positions in the Football League Championship).[36]

League schedule

The NFL and others have also recognised that the current arrangement of giving all teams that play an International Series game the following week off (a bye-week) as being impractical if a London franchise was created, leading to the need to either change the schedule, or persuade teams to play UK and US fixtures in adjacent weeks.[14] The arrangement practised by the University of Hawaii football team, separated from the U.S. mainland by about 3,900 km/2,400 miles, has been suggested as the model to follow for playing blocks of two to three games, home and away.[1]

While still retaining the bye-week, as a test of the logistics, the first game of the 2015 International Series was the first time teams only travelled to London for the weekend, having previously spent a whole week in the UK.[9]

Competitiveness

The NFL is mindful of avoiding the perception that any potential London franchise was being established simply to increase the profile and revenue of the league; any team based in London must be competitive and be able to win the Super Bowl.[14]

The scheduling of the first back-to-back weekend fixtures in the 2015 International Series was also a test of a potential London franchise on competitiveness.[9] One potential issue affecting competition that has been identified (by an NFL team owner) is what happens should a London franchise reach the post-season, which could possibly involve a long trip for a west coast based team to London, and then back to the US for the next weekend.[9] In addition to the travel, it is believed this also presents a challenge in terms of potentially leaving away teams only a week to plan a foreign trip (in contrast to teams knowing the regular season schedule months in advance).[1]

While the International Series fixtures have tested the effect on personnel of travelling east from the USA to the UK and then playing a game within a few days, because of the bye week it has yet to be established what the effect is when travelling the other way. It has been suggested this may be tested by scheduling one team to play back-to-back weekends in the International Series (as the notional home and away team).[9]

Another issue considered is whether or not a London team would have an unfair competitive advantage compared to US-based teams, due to the extra distances away teams would have to travel to play them.[1]

Tax

As of 2013, players appearing in International Series games were subject to UK tax on their income and endorsements on a pro rata basis. If expanded to a full slate of regular season games, it has been suggested that unless the government granted exemptions to attract the NFL, which have been applied to some but not all sports/athletes, then the difference between the UK and US tax codes would be sufficient to dissuade players who are free agents from signing for a London franchise.[7] The talks between the Chancellor and the NFL from 2014 onwards were interpreted by the media as a willingness to offer support in the form of promises of tax exemptions.[37]

Visas

As of 2013, players appearing in International Series games were admitted on temporary working visas, a situation which would not be possible for players working a full home schedule, which would require visas to be issued by a UK government recognised governing body for the sport. Although the British version of the game is administered by the British American Football Association (BAFA), it is not recognised by the UK government for visa purposes. In order to clear these obstacles, it has been suggested the NFL would either have to create its own governing body in the UK, or work through BAFA after they gain approval. Although not expected to fail, it has been speculated that approval of the governing body could be conditional on restrictions being placed on the activities of the NFL in the UK that would not apply to US teams, depending on the government's view of how the visas benefit sport in the country. Analogies have been drawn to soccer, where players from outside the European Union must be shown to be bringing something "special and different", and teams are required to comprise a minimum number of EU citizens. Individual visas may still also be denied due to issues such as criminal convictions.[7]

European Union law

As a member of the European Union (EU), much of the UK's laws are based on EU law. It has been suggested that the NFL's use of a draft system and a minimum age limit on players would come into conflict with the EU's laws regarding freedom of movement for workers and competition. Citing sports lawyer Andrew Nixon, ESPN suggested in 2013 that while the draft may be permissible for the same reasons it is in the US, the age restriction had no US analogy, and so how it would be interpreted by the European Commission would be difficult to predict. The impact of the Bosman ruling on players contracts is also unclear. It also argued that while the UK government would have more interest in making adjustments to accommodate a London team, the EU as a whole would have less to gain by adjusting its laws. A suggested workaround of the team being based in the US and simply flying in for games, Nixon said this was "not something that has been done before and it is untested".[7]

On June 23, 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. A spokesperson for the NFL said that it was working closely with its UK offices and "monitoring" the situation closely.[38] Nonetheless, some speculation has led to keep NFL owners on alert if the UK goes into a recession following an exit from the EU.[39]

Collective bargaining agreement

Many aspects of NFL players' benefits and conditions are set down by the National Football League collective bargaining agreement, negotiated by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), which could potentially impact the establishment of a London franchise.[40][41] Last negotiated in 2011, the current version runs until the 2020 season.

Speaking in September 2014, George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs, said of the issue that "A permanent team in London would require collective bargaining between the league and the players’ union and the NFL have not got to the point where they have said we want to raise it." and "Most players enjoy the experience of going over to London and from our perspective a team based in the UK could be viable – but only if the working conditions and health and safety aspects are satisfactory".[41] This followed a 2013 comment that "Expanding to London by definition is a change in working conditions, placing the conversation squarely in the context of collective bargaining".[7]

NBC Sports has speculated that "It's possible that the NFLPA simply will never agree to a London move. If [they] realize that any of them could be traded to the London team, or could have a London-based team as their only option for ongoing NFL employment via free agency, keeping a team out of London would keep that from ever happening."[40]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The MMQB (October 2, 2014). "Why London? And Can It Work?".
  2. ^ a b c d "Vikings in limbo and expansion not on NFL's radar". Associated Press (via NFL.com). May 5, 2012.
  3. ^ "Three NFL teams apply to move to Los Angeles area". Reuters. January 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d The Guardian (August 4, 2015). "How close are we to a London Jaguars NFL franchise?".
  5. ^ a b Business Reporter (October 2, 2015). "George Osborne backs drive for NFL franchise in London".
  6. ^ a b NBC (June 2, 2014). "Arthur Blank sees "maybe more than one" NFL team in London".
  7. ^ a b c d e ESPN (September 25, 2013). "NFL in London raises legal issues".
  8. ^ a b c CBS (October 28, 2012). "NFL's move to London could come soon; Jags a target".
  9. ^ a b c d e NFL.com (October 2, 2015). "London team by 2022? NFL continues to forge forward in U.K."
  10. ^ a b c d The Telegraph (January 2, 2015). "NFL eye Tottenham's new ground as home for London-based American Football franchise".
  11. ^ BBC News (October 24, 2015). "NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars' Shahid Khan not sold on London move".
  12. ^ BBC News (October 22, 2015). "NFL extends Wembley deal to play two games a year until 2020".
  13. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/apr/26/fa-sell-wembley-fulham-owner-shahid-khan
  14. ^ a b c d e f BBC News (September 27, 2014). "NFL Wembley: Seven years until London Jaguars? Rams? Raiders?".
  15. ^ Metro (January 14, 2016). "What does the Rams move to LA from St Louis mean for London's NFL franchise hopes?".
  16. ^ Newton, David (9 July 2018). "Sale of Panthers to David Tepper finalized". ESPN.com. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  17. ^ Raiders most likely to play in Bay Area in 2019 at the stadium of either 49ers or Giants. CBS Sports. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  18. ^ SBNation (June 2, 2014). "Buffalo Bills face potential move with upcoming sale".
  19. ^ CBS (June 5, 2013). "Why not London Bucs? Don't assume Jaguars are moving".
  20. ^ a b The Telegraph (November 6, 2014). "Roy Hodgson fears NFL game will spoil Wembley pitch ahead of Euro 2016 qualifer [sic] against Slovenia".
  21. ^ BBC News (September 24, 2013). "Why the NFL matters to Wembley Stadium's financial future".
  22. ^ The Guardian (October 8, 2014). "England could hit the road as FA mulls idea of Wembley NFL franchise".
  23. ^ BBC News (October 9, 2014). "England could play games around country if Wembley gets NFL team".
  24. ^ Patra, Kevin (April 26, 2018). "Jaguars owner places offer to buy Wembley Stadium". NFL.com. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  25. ^ "Wembley: Shahid Khan withdraws 'divisive' offer to buy national stadium from FA". BBC News. October 18, 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  26. ^ BBC News (July 8, 2015). "Tottenham Hotspur will host NFL matches at new stadium".
  27. ^ a b c d Business Insider (July 8, 2015). "The NFL just got closer to putting a team in London".
  28. ^ The Telegraph (July 8, 2015). "Tottenham sign deal with NFL to stage American Football matches at new 61,000-seater stadium".
  29. ^ The Telegraph (November 3, 2015). "Twickenham agrees deal to stage NFL games".
  30. ^ BBC News (November 3, 2015). "NFL to play at Twickenham as three-year deal is announced".
  31. ^ NBC (September 25, 2015). "Before putting an NFL team in London, league wants to check logistics".
  32. ^ The Guardian (September 28, 2014). "London looks increasingly likely to get NFL franchise but could it work?".
  33. ^ a b c Breer, Albert (September 21, 2017). Game Plan: NFL Believes London is Ready for Team; 2022 Target is Doable. SI.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  34. ^ The Telegraph (October 24, 2015). "London NFL team needs two million extra fans".
  35. ^ BBC News (January 20, 2016). "NFL plans permanent UK-based franchise 'in six years'".
  36. ^ The Telegraph (October 31, 2015). "NFL expansion to London is 'extraordinary', says Leiweke".
  37. ^ The Telegraph (October 22, 2014). "London-based NFL team receives boost with Chancellor confirming he has held talks over a Wembley franchise".
  38. ^ "NFL 'monitoring' UK situation after Brexit vote". June 24, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  39. ^ Barrabi, Thomas (June 24, 2016). "Will Brexit Bench NFL, NBA In The United Kingdom?". Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  40. ^ a b NBC Sports (October 2, 2013). "NFLPA believes it can block a move to London".
  41. ^ a b The Observer (September 27, 2014). "London NFL franchise remains some way off, players' union says".
Boston Trophy

The Boston Trophy was the trophy awarded each year to the winning team of the British American Football League's (BAFL) annual Premier Division Championship game, BritBowl and was BAFL's most prestigious award.

The trophy was named in honor of the town, Boston, Lincolnshire, where the League was first established.

Introduced at BritBowl XX, the trophy is a life-size replica of an end zone marker in a bright metal finish. Each of the four facets of the trophy can accommodate the names of twenty five BritBowl champions. The names of the first nineteen champions were added prior to BritBowl XX.

The final winners were the London Blitz, who defeated Coventry Jets 34-20 in BritBowl XXIV on 18 September 2010. At BritBowl XXV, the trophy was awarded permanently to the London Olympians, in recognition of their nine title wins, the most of any British team.

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The club was originally formed in 1986, winning the Budweiser Premier Bowl in 1987 and playing in the league's top division between 1988 and 1991 before folding. The Bobcats reformed in 2009 and entered BAFA Community Leagues as an associate member in 2010. The newly formed Bobcats played 5 games (2-3) over the 2010 summer months, concluding with a 34-12 win over Bristol Apache away.

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British American Football Association

The British American Football Association (BAFA) is the national governing body for the sport of American football in the United Kingdom. It is affiliated to the European Federation of American Football (EFAF). In 2010, they formed the BAFA Community Leagues as the country's primary competition for both contact and flag football.

BAFA member bodies:

BAFCA (British American Football Coaches Association)

BAFRA (British American Football Referees Association)

BUAFL (British Universities American Football League)Former Members:

BAFL (British American Football League) - split from BAFA in 2010, and ceased operations in the same year.

BYAFA (British Youth American Football Association) - dissolved 2007 and merged into BAFL

BSAFA (British Students American Football Association) - Disaffiliated 2007 leading to the foundation, by BAFA, of the BUAFL.

SGA (Scottish Gridiron Association)

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They currently play in the BAFA National Leagues in the northern section

Gloucester Centurions

The Gloucester Centurions are an American football team based in Gloucester. They currently compete in the National South League of the BAFA National Leagues.

Lancashire Wolverines

The Lancashire Wolverines are a British American football team based in Preston, Lancashire and are currently playing in the Division 1 of the BAFA National Leagues. Based at Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Football Club, the Wolverines are an amateur team recruiting players from across the North West of England.

The Wolverines first competed in British American Football from 1989 and were present until 2004 when off-field problems caused them to pull out of the league.

Back in the league, after a few years, the Wolverines went 9-1 in the 2011 season in division 2. They were beaten at the semi final stage of the post season, but regardless of this were granted promotion to Division 1 North in a league reshuffle.

London Warriors

The London Warriors are a British American Football club based in Thornton Heath, London and currently play in the BAFA Premier Division South for the 2018 season.

They were formed in 2007 as the London Cobras

and were senior outfit for the London Warriors youth team. They are five-time BritBowl champions, with their most recent victory coming against the Tamworth Phoenix in Britbowl XXXII. They play their home games at Streatham-Croydon RFC.

National Football League franchise moves and mergers

Throughout the years, a number of teams in the National Football League (NFL) have either moved or merged.

In the early years, the NFL was not stable and teams moved frequently to survive, or were folded only to be resurrected in a different city with the same players and owners. The Great Depression era saw the movement of most surviving small-town NFL teams to the large cities to ensure survival. Franchise mergers were popular during World War II in response to the scarcity of players. Few of these relocations and mergers were accompanied with widespread controversy.

Franchise moves became far more controversial in the late 20th century when a vastly more popular NFL, free from financial instability, allowed many franchises to abandon long-held strongholds for perceived financially greener pastures. Despite a Pete Rozelle promise to Congress not to relocate franchises in return for a law exempting the league from certain aspects of antitrust laws, making possible the AFL–NFL merger, several franchises have relocated in the years since the merger and the passage of the law (Public Law 89-800) which sanctioned it.

While owners invariably cited financial difficulties as the primary factor in such moves, many fans bitterly disputed these contentions, especially in Baltimore, St. Louis, and Cleveland, each of which eventually received teams some years after their original franchises left. However, Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the United States, did not have an NFL team from 1995 to 2015. The league had started actively promoting a return to Los Angeles no later than 2006, and in January 2016, the NFL gave the St. Louis Rams approval to move back to Los Angeles. A year later, the San Diego Chargers also relocated to the city, while the Oakland Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas in 2019 or 2020.

Within the United States, the San Diego–Tijuana market is currently the largest metropolitan area (and only one with over 3 million residents) without an NFL franchise. The only other city to be seriously considered in the country in recent times was San Antonio, Texas, which the Raiders seriously considered as a relocation candidate in 2014 before choosing Las Vegas instead. Speculation on future relocation has mainly been centered around two larger cities outside the United States: Toronto, Canada (q.v. National Football League in Toronto) and London, England, United Kingdom (q.v. Potential London NFL franchise), the latter of which would be the first attempt by one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada to place a team outside North America.

Additionally, with the increasing suburbanization of the U.S., the building of new stadiums and other team facilities in the suburbs instead of the central city became popular from the 1970s on, though at the turn of the 21st century a reverse shift back to the central city became somewhat evident.

Northumberland Vikings

The Northumberland Vikings are an American Football team based in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. They were formed as the Newcastle Vikings in 2014 and play their home games at Druid Park. At the end of the 2017 season they announced they had merged with the Northumberland Lightning .

Norwich Devils

The Norwich Devils are a British American Football team based in Norwich, Norfolk.

Portsmouth Dreadnoughts

The Portsmouth Dreadnoughts are an American football team currently based in Portsmouth, England. The club was founded in 2012. The team is named after the famous battleship HMS Dreadnought that was built in Portsmouth in 1906. The team play in the BAFA National Leagues South West Division.

Redditch Arrows

The Redditch Arrows were an American Football team based initially in Redditch and later in Birmingham, United Kingdom. They were formed in 1986 and disbanded in 2009.

Shropshire Revolution

The Shropshire Revolution are a British American football team based in Telford, Shropshire, in the Midlands, England.

The Team are currently members of the British American Football Association National League.

The Shropshire Revolution are in South Division of the BAFANL NFC 2 Conference.

AFC
NFC
BAFANL Premiership
BAFANL Division 1
BAFANL Division 2
Associate Teams
Defunct/Inactive Teams

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