The NFL is playing three regular season games in the United Kingdom in 2016 and one contest in Mexico. There has also been talk of a Pro Bowl in Brazil and another regular season game in Germany.
But could the league’s next international stop be China?
Albert Breer of NFL Network and Alex Marvez of Fox Sports have both reported that the NFL could look at playing a regular season game in China as soon as 2018. http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/nfl-in-china-regular-season-game-as-early-as-2018-032116
The NFL is clearly making bold moves in terms of globalising the sport of American football and if this report is to be believed, is keen to re-test a Chinese market that reportedly has 17.5 million NFL fans. The league planned to play a preseason game between New England and Seattle in 2007 but that contest was never played.
With regard to the international growth of American football, NFL Executive Vice President of International Mark Waller told me in an interview for the official Super Bowl game programme:
“I’ve always felt we had an extraordinary product and the chance to build it globally. We’re building out our appeal around the world to the level that it deserves.”
There would be one pretty significant hurdle to playing a regular season game in China. If we assume the venue to be Beijing or Shanghai, a game would have to kick off at 9pm local time on a Sunday night in order for it to be viewed at 8am on the East Coast of America and at 5am in California.
I’m sure there would be one or two logistical issues with playing a game at that time of night in a relatively new NFL market.
It is an interesting story somewhat out of left field but definitely one worth monitoring. Germany has also been reported to be in the running for a regular season game in 2017.
As more and more international markets come on line and become contenders for games, you have to wonder if the NFL’s re-visits its 17th game proposal, allowing for 16 additional games to be played out of market each year. That could be an alternative to the London franchise proposal and could truly globalise the sport of American football.