Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who leads the New York Jets into London this weekend, thinks the NFL needs to work out logistical matters before placing a permanent team in the UK.
“I think the biggest issue that they are going to have to figure out is the travel, just the time change,” Fitzpatrick told Breitbart Sports. “How do you do it? Do you do it in four-game blocks? Do you have somewhere in the United States where the team is always [practicing]. It’s going to be a difficult hurdle, the time change, to overcome.”
London spins five hours ahead of New York and Miami, the two teams playing at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, and eight hours ahead of such Pacific Coast NFL cities as Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego. A 2:30 p.m. start in London works as a 9:30 a.m. start for Dolphins and Jets players accustomed to kickoffs hours later.
Fitzpatrick thinks that a London franchise might face long, four-game trips across the Atlantic and require a training complex located in the United States. The Concorde coming back into commission would certainly help with logistics. But absent that unlikely occurrence, London’s NFL franchise likely enjoys a decided home-field advantage and suffers more than normal as the visiting team.
Fitzpatrick regards an NFL team in London as a fait accompli. The Harvard grad—and its highest scoring, along with Ben Watson, on the intelligence test administered to rookies at the NFL rookie combine—just does not know when that happens.
“Eventually, I would think, there is going to be a team there,” Fitzpatrick told Breitbart Sports. “But who knows when that is going to be?”
For this season, the NFL plays three games in London. Apart from the AFC East Jets-Dolphins tilt, the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars compete on October 25 and the Detroit Lions play the Kansas City Chiefs on November 1.
The Jaguars signed a four-year deal to play one game a year in London’s Wembley Stadium through 2016. Reports indicate that the team wishes to extend the deal through 2030.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll have a renewal on that, and that it will go for a long time,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said on September 1. “For us, London and Jacksonville is almost a marriage made in heaven.”
The one game a year in London, which works as a cash cow for the Jaguars, helps Jacksonville deal with the economic challenges playing in one of the NFL’s smallest markets that lacks for corporate sponsors.
“It’s been probably the number-one element in stabilizing the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Khan said. “I think it’s a crucial part of our franchise.”
In July, the NFL announced that starting in 2018, they hope to schedule two games per year in the new stadium planned for Tottenham. The NFL continues to up the ante in London. But how close is the league to putting a team there permanently?
“When we started [with the series in 2007], I reckoned it’d take 15 years to do it,” said Mark Waller, NFL International executive vice-president. “That was what I expected, and we’re still on course. We’re at the midpoint now.”