NFL eyeing Paris and Dublin as potential venues for future international games

James

NFL International Series game between Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars in London - CC BY-SA

Annually, the NFL International Series has played a pivotal role in expanding the league’s global audience. For the past seventeen years, this series has brought regular season games to numerous countries, steadily increasing the NFL’s international following. This observation isn’t just a general statement, it highlights the tangible impact of the series on the NFL’s worldwide popularity.

According to a press release from the NFL, last year’s Super Bowl showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers attracted an unprecedented international audience of 62.5 million viewers. This remarkable figure represents the highest viewership in the history of the sport and marks a significant 10 percent increase from the previous season’s Super Bowl.

The surge in viewership can be attributed, in part, to the game’s live broadcast across over 195 countries and territories. Notably, this included England, Germany, and Mexico—three countries that have consistently hosted regular season games in recent years, further solidifying the NFL’s global presence and appeal.

NFL’s Global Expansion Plans

With remarkable viewership figures and consistently sold-out stadiums in the NFL International series, it’s clear that the league remains committed to its global expansion efforts. This commitment is set to continue unabated. The NFL is poised to make its inaugural appearance in Brazil this September, and plans are already underway for a game in Spain in 2025. Looking further ahead, the league has its sights set on expanding into additional cities beyond 2025.

According to Henry Hodgson, general manager of the NFL UK office, the league is actively exploring various European cities as potential expansion sites. Speaking to the Irish Times, Hodgson revealed ongoing feasibility studies in cities like Dublin, among others.

These studies involve assessing stadium suitability and engaging in local discussions to gauge interest and infrastructure support. The findings will inform the league’s decisions regarding its next steps in expanding its global footprint. Similar efforts are underway in cities such as Paris, indicating the NFL’s comprehensive approach to international growth.

A Glimpse into the Future

Although the NFL has yet to issue an official statement regarding its long-term objectives, the trajectory of the NFL International Series appears increasingly evident. A closer examination reveals the likely direction of this expansion. By 2025, the league aims to have staged regular season games in five distinct countries: England, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain.

Furthermore, indications suggest that Ireland and France may soon join this esteemed list. However, with such momentum and global interest, the question arises: why limit expansion efforts there?

The NFL has shown keen interest in expanding its footprint to Australia, Africa, and Asia, indicating that games in Sydney, Lagos, and Tokyo may soon become a reality. Looking ahead, it’s plausible to envision a significant shift in the league’s scheduling approach.

Within the next decade, it’s conceivable that the 17th game on each team’s schedule could transition into a neutral-site NFL International Series game outside of the United States. This would diverge from the current practice of rotating between the NFC and AFC having one additional home game each year.

In this scenario, the NFL could maintain its presence in established international markets like London by continuing to schedule multiple games annually. However, there’s also potential for innovation, with all sixteen international matchups being hosted in different locations across six continents. Such a move would underscore the league’s global aspirations and its commitment to fostering a truly international fan base.

In a press release last year, there was considerable interest in Australia as a venue, though the logistics of a mid-season game there are said to be challenging due to the long travel distance. There was a potential solution, too, where the NFL could consider scheduling a week-one game in Australia at midday on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, possibly allowing the Super Bowl champion to open the season on Sunday night in the U.S. but things didn’t seem to work out as expected.

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