Sunday, May 03, 2009

Don't take the Super Bowl to London

As reports begin to surface of the City of London working to bring the Super Bowl across the pond within the next eight years, Stateside NFL fans should rightfully be cringing at the idea.

I haven't been the biggest fan of the NFL taking two teams to London each of the past two seasons to play a regular-season game. Yes, the games have been sold out at Wembley Stadium, and the NFL clearly gets a kick out of it, which is why a third game is going to be played in London again this season. But for so many financial and economic reasons, the NFL needs to keep the Super Bowl - the single-largest uber-spectacle sporting event in the nation and perhaps the world - here in the United States.

The first glaring reason that I can bring up without being accused of wrapping myself in the flag is a purely financial objective. One report claims the Super Bowl would be worth $521.1 to the London economy. London is aiming to host the game in either 2014, 2015 or 2017, and by that time any current economic woes should ideally be passed the United States and the global economy. However even if the current economic climate has improved in 6-8 years, that is still more than a half-billion dollars that the American economy would benefit from. Taking the Super Bowl and that economic boost out of the country is financially irresponsible.

Also think about the jobs that will simply go unfilled by American workers. Consider the regular-season game that the league plays in London each year. One NFL team must give up a home game. Never mind the fans who live in the local market who want to attend the game - because we all know the NFL cares more about the TV money than attendance money, which makes sense considering the drastic difference (although tickets at the new Cowboys and Giants/Jets facilities are working to bridge the gap) - but what about the stadium employees of the team that loses a home game.

Everyone at the stadium misses out on that day of work. That might not seem like a big deal, but if you asked the people who worked at the snack bar, merchandise stand clerks, ticket takers, security guards, and so many others that make a stadium go on Sundays, I bet they'd be a little less enthusiastic about having 10% of their pay cut. (10% = each NFL team plays 10 home games per season including two pre-season games.) For example, I work for a professional baseball team that plays 44 home games. If we lost 4-5 of home games because they were played elsewhere during the regular season, that's 4-5 games I wouldn't get paid for which isn't a very enticing thought.

Maybe there would be a big pay-day in it for the NFL. Who knows what London would be able to do to make the Super Bowl in London a reality. It's already a neutral-location championship game. The Super Bowl is a unique event because of how it rotates locations not based on who is playing but on a city and a stadium's bid to host the event. London just wants a shot of it all. And even though they are optimistic it will happen, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is quoted as saying the NFL has "never" looked at the Super Bowl being in London or even Mexico City. (Granted, I'd much rather see it in former than in the latter if it is going to go international).

Don't get me wrong, there are some positives for a Super Bowl in London, like an opportunity for fans who want to make the trip to perhaps carve out a week of their time for a fun trip abroad highlighted by attending the NFL's championship game. That sounds like fun. Expensive, but fun. Based on pre-season favorites, roundtrip airfare from Boston to London would be around $610, and from Dallas would be $741. Compare that to airfare to a Super Bowl-favorite destination like San Diego. From Boston $399, and from Dallas $445.

There is also the risk of the Londoners designing a Super Bowl logo. And after what they did with their 2012 Olympics logo, there is legitimate cause for concern. But the mockery of it is amusing.

The NFL should keep it's championship game in the United States. And if they do somehow wind up with a London Super Bowl, they'll see it was an even worse mistake than playing the Pro Bowl outside of Honolulu the week before the Super Bowl.

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