Recently the NFL added a third London game to the regular season schedule. The three teams that will host home games at Wembley Stadium in London next year are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders. Some experts have pointed out that all three of these organizations are not happy with their current stadium situations. This may or may not be the reason they will be playing games across the pond. It is interesting to note that most season ticket holders are not going to be able to attend a “home” game in another country. Personal seat license (PSL) ticket holders are not going to be happy as this is one of the games of the eight regular season home games in which they will be unable to attend. After shelling over tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years it is not a good thing to find out that a home game is going to be played thousands of miles away.
Will Fans Travel?
NFL fans are an interesting bunch. Some teams that have decades of tradition (Steelers, Packers and Bears) have fans that are willing to travel all over the United States to watch their team play. The last time I went to a San Diego Chargers game they played the Green Bay Packers. This was coming off the Super Bowl year so Packers fans were willing to do anything to watch their team play. When we got to the Chargers stadium over 70% of the crowd was pulling for the Packers. This was the first time I attended a professional football game that was so lopsided as it related to the opposing team’s fans. Green Bay fans were willing to fly from Wisconsin to San Diego but I can assure you that San Diego fans would not be willing to fly to Wisconsin.
The Jaguars and Falcons do not have a history of traveling well. Raiders fans are willing to travel but they are on the west coast so their flight to London will be even longer. I think it is safe to say that most season ticket holders are not going to be willing to take a weekend to fly overseas to watch their “home” team play. Even if this was a playoff game, or a very important game, I still do not think fans would make the trip. The economy has improved and attendance has increased in many sports but this does not mean fans are going to shell out $5,000 to make a trip to London to see the boys play.
The only way Americans will be willing to travel overseas for a game is to go to a better climate. If the NFL held games in the Caribbean or a beach tourist destination it would give fans a reason to take a fall or winter vacation. There is a reason the NFL Pro Bowl has been in Hawaii for so many years. That said, London is not going to have moderate temperatures during the fall and winter months. In fact, the temperatures in and around London could be worse than the Northeast. This is something fans will strongly consider before booking their plane tickets and making the game ticket purchases for Wembley Stadium.
How Will PSL Ticket Holders Feel?
A personal seat license ticket holder has worked very hard to get seats in their home stadium. Some of these individuals have spent over $100,000 during the course of the last few decades trying to improve their seats for home games. Having spent a significant amount of time and money to get the ideal seats these fans cannot be happy that they are going to lose one of eight home games. If I were a PSL ticket holder at the home of my favorite stadium and I missed out on a Sunday of fun I would be livid. When I was in college we worked our tails off to make certain we had the seats we wanted on Saturday afternoon. If I worked all offseason to obtain these seats and I lost one of my games that year it would not sit easy with me.
NFL fans continue to come back no matter what. It is interesting to see just how popular the NFL has remained over the last several decades. I am of the age that it is hard to remember a time when the NFL did not own the sports industry. The NFL is so popular that the draft is the biggest event of the spring besides March Madness. Some would argue that major cities that have NFL teams actually gear up for the NFL Draft more than they get ready for March Madness. When looking at the number of searches for NFL related topics it is very obvious that the NFL is the biggest player in town when it comes to professional and semi professional sports.
Although I am an avid college football fan I fully recognize that the NFL is where the big money is. There is a darn good reason companies will pay $3 to $5 million for a 30 second TV commercial during the Super Bowl. Every single year the Super Bowl is the most watched event on TV. On any given Sunday the TV ratings for the best NFL game are through the roof. This means there are huge advertising dollars that go into the TV broadcast and at the stadiums. This brings up another very important point when it comes to teams playing in London. The home stadium will lose a large amount of advertising impressions by not hosting that game. Also, the TV ratings will likely drop because the time difference is so drastic.
The Time Difference for NFL Games
Last week the San Diego Chargers played the Oakland Raiders in a game that started at 11:30 pm est. This was 8:30 on the west coast but I do not live on the west coast. I am a Chargers fan so I stayed up for the first half, which was quite disappointing. I would imagine the ratings for this game were terrible. First of all, it was way too late for anyone that had to work on Monday morning. It was also available only on the NFL Network. To compound the problems the game was terrible from the very beginning. Before I knew it the score was 17-0 Raiders and I had no desire to watch. If this game started at 1:00 or 4:00 my time there is a good chance I would have left it on in the background while I did some work. By the time it was 17-0 it was close to 1:00 am and I had to get to bed to get up Monday morning.
As if this time difference isn’t bad enough, the time difference in London is even worse. The NFL tries to time it out where the game isn’t in the middle of the night but it is very difficult from a logistical standpoint. The NFL wants fans in Wembley Stadium so they cannot make this game kick off in the middle of the night or early in the morning. That would be the prime time in the United States. In all reality, the NFL has to walk a tight rope to figure out when they can air these games to please fans in London and please the TV companies that are making money on ad dollars.
I have always said I would love to live in Hawaii because of the time difference. The great thing about Hawaii is you can wake up on a Saturday or Sunday at 10 and it is around dinner time on the east coast. If you an early riser you can watch all of the college football and still be able to go out to dinner and a movie and not miss anything when it comes to the games. That said, Hawaiians struggle to enjoy lots of football because the best games are on very early in the morning and they are either just rising or still sleeping. This is what is going to happen to fans living in the eastern time zone if the NFL continues to play more games in London. Fans will either have to get up very early to watch the game live or attempt to avoid all score updates because they DVR’d the game while sleeping. This is not an easy thing to do in the age of smartphones and updates all the time. Definitely avoid Twitter if you are looking to avoid finding out the score before you watch the taped version of the game.
Ultimately, most fans are not going to travel to London to watch their team play. I would also imagine diehard fans are not going to be excited to lose one of their eight home games in the fall. These eight weekends are some of the most important weekends of the year for many sports fans so they will be brokenhearted when they know they will have to watch a home game on TV even though they have PSLs.
By Jesse Wojdylo