Alexander: London NFL team “only a matter of time”

Crystal Palace Chief Executive Phil Alexander believes that it’s only a “matter of time” before London has it’s own NFL franchise.

The former London Monarchs kicker, professional footballer turned football businessman thinks a team in London is feasible.

“I think from a standpoint of a business and whether it would be successful, I’d be very much of the opinion that it would be a big success.

“I personally think it’s only a matter of time. An expansion franchise might be a bit tricky but actually moving another franchise from the States out here would be hugely successful.

“I don’t see that the appeal would be just from people that live in London too. I’d see it being Europe’s club, there’s certainly enough demand to pack the place out week-in-week-out.

“The level of game knowledge from European fans is very good as well. People understand it. They’ve watched it on TV for many many years, they don’t need to be told what the rules are.” He said.

The ex-Monarchs place kicker reckons that the love for American Football in Britain has always been there, even around the time of the World League days: “It was making headline news, it was big news in London.” he says.

“In the early days, in the programmes and on the PA systems there was explanations of what was going on in front of you and some people found it a bit patronising because they were into the sport in a big way.

“People had been watching the sport through Channel 4 who had been doing a great job in bringing it over and showing it. The early days were very exciting. The NFL grew in stature and in the visibility of the brand both through merchandising and television exposure. so there was a lot of interest in it.

“At that time the NFL were bringing over pre-season games to Wembley, so they were trying to promote the sport in a different way. Friendlies aren’t enough now, people want the league games and the success over the last few years has been phenomenal in terms of bringing live league games over to grow the sport.”

During his American Football playing days, Alexander was the leading points scorer in the League in ‘91 when the Monarchs won the World Bowl in it’s inaugural season.

He recalls his journey and success with the Monarchs: “I’d played for the Farnham Knights on a very much amateur basis over here as a place kicker. A friend of mine encouraged me to go along because I could kick the ball quite well.

“I did alright for the first year and then the trials came up for the World League and I was encouraged to go. I went through three or four sets of trials and eventually I was signed up as one of the Operations Discovery player’s of the year for the league. Then I went out to Florida for a few weeks and then I was drafted to play for the Monarchs.

“Came back to London and then within about another three weeks, I was given the kicking spot. It was quite a journey.

“I was on the all World League team and I was voted on that by all the coaches which was a big honour. I was the highest point scorer in the League in the ‘91 season and was the Operation’s Discovery player of the year and, of course we were World Bowl winners. So it was a pretty good season.

“Playing in the final at Wembley in front of 70,000 people was great. At the time, it was great for the city and the sport.

“I did two seasons and then after the the second season, the league decided to put a freeze on the league for the following year. So we were kind of left with that there was no league coming back so it was a case of ‘what do you want to do?’.

“I had a couple of trials with the Houston Oilers and Chicago Bears, but unfortunately those never worked out so I decided to come back to my first love which was football and getting involved in the business side of football, which I’ve enjoyed ever since.”

The former Norwich City player made an easy transition to the other code but explains the difference between the two roles and draws an analogy that most Brits can relate to.

“But then when you start getting into kicking an American Football which is actually quite small and has got a very small sweet spot. If you don’t get it exactly right then it’s very difficult to control.

“Also you’ve also got the time element of it, you’ve got to get it off in a certain time sorting it out with the holder and the snapper.

“It’s a bit like going on as a substitute in football and you’re first kick is a penalty. And you know you should be kicking it, but you’re not really in the game and you’ve got that one shot at it to give it a go. You do all the warm ups you can ,but when you get out there it’s very different.”

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