The coronavirus pandemic meant no NFL games took place in London — or anywhere internationally — during the 2020 season. All football games understandably remained stateside.
In the league’s attempt at returning to normalcy, the NFL plans to have two games occur in England later this year. But, and we’re not making this up, furious soccer fans could force the NFL to re-evaluate its plans.
Soccer fans could present a problem for the NFL’s London Games
If you’re familiar with the Butterfly Effect, it’s the idea that one small and simple change or event can drastically impact the future.
In the case of the NFL and its London Games, perhaps we should rename it the SuperButterfly Effect. Earlier this year, European soccer fans reacted with outrage when some of the top clubs, including the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, proposed forming their own league.
Tottenham Hotspur, a team in London, was among the 12 clubs which would have formed the Super League. This year, both of the NFL’s planned London Games are scheduled to be at the aptly named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. First, the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets will square off on Sunday, October 10. A week later, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins will face off in London.
According to the Daily Mail, there are concerns about soccer fans holding non-violent protests in hopes of halting both games. Fans have reportedly already discussed the possibility on YouTube channels.
As of publication, the NFL had not issued any statements on the upcoming games in London.
Should the league be concerned about the future of the London Games?
The London Games have proved extremely profitable and popular for the NFL since they first traveled overseas. And in a league where cash is king, don’t expect the NFL to start burning dollar bills voluntarily.
But the potential of those non-violent protests should concern the NFL. It is not worth sending four teams overseas to play in front of empty stadiums or risk having kickoff pushed back hours because fans are still angry about the Super League.
There are also the logistical issues of postponing a game. Asking the Jets to stay in Buffalo because of a snowstorm is one thing, but having teams remain in England indefinitely is another story entirely. And rescheduling those international trips won’t be as easy as the audibles the NFL called last year when the pandemic postponed games.
The London Games deserve to remain in place even if the league changes its upcoming plans. But with that said, the NFL cannot send the Buccaneers or Rams to England anytime soon if local fans remain angry about the Super League. Buccaneers owner Joel Glazer and Rams owner Stan Kroenke, both of whom are involved in European soccer, were each among the Super League’s founding board.
The NFL has moved games from international venues before
In a situation where the NFL decided the risks in playing this year’s London Games far outweighed the benefits, there is at least precedent in moving the international games back to the United States.
The Rams intended to host the Chiefs in Mexico during the 2018 season. However, poor conditions forced the game to occur in Los Angeles. The Rams won, 54-51, in a classic Monday Night Football game.
The Falcons and Jaguars are the designated home teams this year. If the games do not occur in London, it makes far more sense to play the games in Atlanta and Jacksonville, respectively, instead of finding another neutral site.
With all that has happened since the calendar turned over to 2020, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by European soccer fans potentially negatively affecting the NFL’s revenue. Nothing is unheard of anymore.