Globalization: The NFL's Future Depends on It
Throughout the wide world of sports, there are many different sports leagues that compete against each other to become the best in either an entire region or large sections of the world.
From cricket to soccer to rugby, different leagues compete to make their respective sport better and as popular as they can throughout the world.
Here in the United States, the National Football League has become one of the newest entity to start contending in the world sports market due to the sport's tremendous popularity in America.
After nearly two decades of NFL Europe and preseason games in places such as Berlin, the NFL was an extremely slow mover in making itself a global brand.
The only place outside of North America that actually seemed to like the NFL is Germany, which had five out of the six NFL Europe teams before the league shut down in 2007 (the only NFL Europe team that was not located inside Germany in 2007 was the Amsterdam Admirals).
During this time, the NFL had started playing NFL games at London's Wembley Stadium, beginning in 2007 with the New York Giants facing the Miami Dolphins.
Also, the Buffalo Bills played one game in 2009 away from Ralph Wilson Stadium at Toronto's Rogers Centre as part of the Bills' Toronto Series.
Over the years, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated he wants to either put two NFL games at Wembley Stadium each year or add an NFL franchise in London by relocation or expansion.
But with the NFL having been "rushed" into globalization, is it too little too late?
The reason why I ask this question is because the NFL has been trying to globalize at a fast rate during the last three years, but it has never has been able to truly gain a foothold except in Germany and Mexico.
In both of these countries, the NFL has experienced some popularity. But for some reason, the NFL will not expand in these markets.
Mexico has a bigger population than the United Kingdom and way more NFL fans right now than there are in England.
In 1994, a preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Oilers garnered a crowd of 112,246 at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca. In the only regular season game held in Mexico, there was a then-record NFL attendance of 103,467 at Azteca.
There is a growing amount of NFL merchandise being bought in Mexico, and the NFL is really hurting itself by not tapping the key market that exists in Mexico.
Attendence has steadily grown for the annual NFL games staged at Wembley, but there has been no big boost for the NFL in England. The English Premier League is not only the most popular sports league there but in the world.
Where the Premier League has been able to succeed is where the NFL has become a failure: globalization.
The NFL has never been able to garner as many fans as it should in the Asian market and has not properly used any of the other markets it has attempted to break into.
For example, look at Germany. The NFL has never put a regular season game there despite the success of NFL Europe there. Germany has stadiums that are more than capable of hosting NFL games.
A 1:00 p.m. EST game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins would start at 7:00 p.m. German time, which would be in prime time for the German audience. It would broadcast at the exact same time as the other games for that week in America, which wouldn't interfere with the normal NFL television schedule.
But the possibilities for Germany do not end there. The NFL could put this game during the middle to end of December, the exact same time that the German Bundesliga (the top German soccer league) takes its annual winter break.
So, the NFL could put a game between two potential playoff teams in a foreign country right before the NFL playoffs and garner more cash than they would back here in America.
But of course, the NFL will never do that as they consider that British market too important.
Next, there is Mexico, a potential gold mine with its growing NFL fan base.
If the NFL were to put a game in Azteca, they would be able to have a higher attendance there than any other NFL stadium (except Cowboys Stadium).
In this situation, the NFL should actually take a page out of the Buffalo Bills' notebook, and move either a San Diego Chargers or the Arizona Cardinals game to Mexico City.
If they did that, the NFL would easily sell out Azteca, and it would be able to appease the Mexican fans that love the NFL.
But of course, the NFL will not do that either as it sticks to its plan that will doom the league to failure.
how is the NFL dooming itself for failure you might ask? It all comes down to globalization.
Instead of gaining large potential audiences to help make the sport bigger worldwide, the NFL is instead sticking to its plan of isolation.
Basically, Americans have seen themselves as the best with the best of everything, but that no longer is going to work with the global market that now exists around us.
Every other league in the United States has taken way bigger steps to not only become a better league on the world stage, but also to have stars from other countries now able to play in their respective sports.
Meanwhile, the NFL has an overwhelming majority of American-born players, and it cannot get players from overseas due to a lack of exposure that it gets outside of North America.
With globalization, each sports league has been able to become popular all across the planet, especially in Asia where the NHL's New York Islanders have been able to play a preseason game before the NFL, which they plan on doing this upcoming summer.
In case you were wondering, the closest NFL has gotten to playing games in China were 13 preseason American Bowl games held in Toyko from 1989 to 2005. A preseason game was supposed to be played on China in 2007 but was postponed until 2009 and then got scraped altogether.
Currently, there are no plans for a preseason game in the country that has the world's fastest growing economy.
Also, in the other countries that are known as the "Asian Tigers" (South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong) along with Japan, there have been no new developments of even a preseason game happening in the near future.
Meanwhile for the NBA and the EPL, they have had preseason games in these countries over the last several years. MLB has had several regular season games in Japan since 2000, and a growing number of foreign players from these countries.
In 2002, the FIFA World Cup was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.
From this, the three leagues have been able to gain money and have growing fan bases in each of those countries, and FIFA was able to help start a fan base for soccer there with the World Cup.
With all of this in mind, the NFL might have continued to grow as an American sports league, but it will ultimately fail due to globalization.
Every sport's league that contends against the NFL in America has been able to make its sport more popular overseas and get a bigger fan base, while the NFL is still living off of the U.S. dollar.
One might think that might not be bad at all with the NFL's success, but the dollar continues to lose its value, and dependency on the U.S. market is not the best idea for the NFL.
That is part of the reason why there is a 10 percent unemployment rate in America, and why people outside of the United States are able to gain jobs.
Granted, the world economy is starting to recover, but sports for the most part have been unaffected. It continues to grow with the many personalities that exist in their respective sports.
But during the time in which the NFL truly is in a must expand situation, the NFL will ultimately fail because it is failing to truly globalize. Other leagues are able to get into new markets and gain more money.
This has been a problem that no one wants to face, but the NFL must realize that they will need a miracle if they are going to continue to succeed in the long term.
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