The NFL International Series will again be played in London in 2019, with Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosting four matches.
The games have been played in the English capital since 2007 and have been a success for both the NFL and fans in the United Kingdom, along with other travelling supporters from throughout Europe. Could that success lead to NFL games being played in Australia?
The London games have brought the sport that a niche audience enjoyed from afar to faithful fans in their own country, who in the past had to get up in the middle of the night to watch their teams due to the time difference in the USA. The series has become an entrenched part of the NFL schedule, and all but one of the 32 franchises will have played in London by the end of the 2019 season, with the Green Bay Packers the only team not to have made the trip.
Tottenham Hotspur have secured a partnership with the NFL for the next 10 years for games to be played at their new stadium. It provides a platform for Spurs to become the venue for the NFL overseas, easing the burden on Wembley.
The development could also raise the question of whether a Super Bowl could be played outside of the United States. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has denied that could over occur, but if a franchise was moved to England, it may become a reality over the next ten years. If you are interested in US sports, check this map of the next five venues of the Super Bowl, spreading right across the United States. The NFL is beginning to have a global reach and matches are even beginning to be played in Mexico City, while in the past Toronto has hosted the Buffalo Bills on occasions.
If they are able to host matches, why could Australia not be a venue for an NFL game in the future? The MLB has played in Japan, which travel-wise is a similar distance away from the States. There are several stadiums in Australia that could host the event, matching the experience of London. The NFL has a similar following in Australia as it does in the United Kingdom and Europe. For a one-off game, the novelty of the event would also attract casual fans or even just people local to the venue.
There are several cities that would be vying to host the game. Sydney would be a logical choice, given it hosted an NFL exhibition game in 1999, between the Broncos and Chargers in front of 73,811 spectators at ANZ Stadium. It also hosted College Football games in 2016 and 2017. While Melbourne would also no doubt bid for such an event, given it prides itself as the sports capital and boasts Australia’s only stadium with a capacity exceeding 100,000. It would match NFL stadiums in terms of attendance – indeed, only AT&T Stadium in Dallas would be able to hold a similar amount of people. Melbourne will also host two basketball exhibition games in August 2019, featuring Team USA v Australia, at Marvel Stadium.
An issue would be the field and the time of the year of NFL games. The Australian cricket season would be gearing up towards the end of the calendar year and could provide a clash at the MCG, while Sydney’s ANZ Stadium is only used for NRL and the occasional A-League match and would be an easier fit for the NFL, however it is due to be redeveloped in the coming years. Perth’s Optus Stadium is the newest venue in Australia that would also be an intriguing option, but also may clash with cricket matches.
Australia has the infrastructure to cope with the NFL’s demands and it will be fascinating to see whether the league chooses to expand its world-wide presence beyond the United Kingdom.