Do the NFL Games in London Make Sense?

Recently the NFL has been having teams play one week in London, England. This is the second stint with the NFL playing games in London on a yearly basis with the first stint including 9 games played in either July or August over an 11 year span, 1986-1997.

Almost 10 years ago, the NFL brought that back in 2007, when they sent the Miami Dolphins there to play against the New York Giants on October 28th, the event was a success from a financial standpoint as the first 40,000 tickets were sold in just 90 minutes and the total attendance from the game was 81,176 fans at Wembley Stadium. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t always televised throughout the United States as portions of the Midwest and the rocky mountain areas were shown local games instead of the big time game in London — albeit Miami was 0-8 and the Giants were 6-2, so not exactly the highest quality of games.

NFL london

The attendance in the London games has always been sky high, with tens of thousands of more people able to attend each game due to Wembley Stadium being a bigger stadium than most NFL stadiums. They managed to get at least 81,000 fans to attend every game from 2007-2010 with different teams involved in every game until the 2011 season when they lost around 7,000 fans and dropped to almost 77,00 fans.

2008: 83,226

2009: 84,254

2010: 83,941

2011: 76,981

After 2011, the NFL wanted to try and get some more consistency in the UK — maybe give the fans in the UK a team to truly cheer for by having the same team come to the UK for years and years at a time. In 2012, Roger Goodell announced that the St Louis (now the Los Angeles) Rams had agreed to play games in London from 2012-2014.

2012: 84,004

The attendance for the Rams game in 2012 was the second highest since the NFL went back to the idea of the NFL in the UK. But the Rams had announced that they were not actually interested in playing in these games and they stopped playing them. The NFL followed that up by announcing that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be playing one of their home games every season in the UK from 2013-2016.

In 2013, the NFL started to truly invest in the idea of having games over seas. Originally, it was announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars would play against the San Francisco as the opening game of the Jags contract for games in London. But in October of 2012 there were rumours being spread of the Minnesota Vikings playing one of their home games in London. Well, those rumours turned out to be true and the Vikings played against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Once again they had successful turnouts for both games at Wembley Stadium.

Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh: 83,518

Jacksonville vs. San Francisco: 83,559

Once again the turnout for the games were outstanding, so the NFL went ahead and added another game to the list for 2014 and from 2013-2015 they had 3 games a year.

2014
Miami vs. Oakland: 83,436
Detroit vs. Atlanta: 83,532
Dallas vs. Jacksonville: 83,603

2015
Miami vs. NY Jets: 83,986
Kansas City vs. Detroit: 83,624
Buffalo vs. Jacksonville: 84,021

Overall, the majority of games that take place in Wembley stadium tend to sell around 83,000 tickets with great turnouts leading to a financial gain for the game being played internationally. In 2014 the 3 games in London had a combined $32 million in ticket revenues and I am sure they had something similar this year.

Although the turnouts in London are sky high at the games, after asking around in North America I found that people that usually watch as many games as possible rarely watched the games in London. I asked people from Canada and the United States and the results were shocking. The results from the first ten people surveyed are below:

People that watched 0 games: 5
People that watched 1 game: 3
People that watched 2 games: 2
People that watched all 3 games: 0

Of the people that watched 1 game, 2 of them only watched those games because their favourite team was involved. Now, based on these numbers, 50% of people that were surveyed didn’t watch these games when they were the only game on. Now obviously these numbers are very skewed because of the fact that only a small sample size of people were interviewed, but if you look at the TV ratings for all football games all year there were under 10 games that had under 10.0M viewers, and 2 of them were the games that took place in London (I am not going to count the Bills game as it wasn’t televised; it was on yahoo. But that game had by far the least amount of viewers of any game ). The TV Ratings are shown in the hyperlink.

Overall with the increase in attendance and the high revenue in ticket sales and many other things affiliated with the events it makes it worth it for the NFL to travel to the UK for the games from a financial point of view. But for the average North American viewer that just appreciates the game of football, those games in London with the extremely early start time of 9:00 am EST or 6:00 am PST are a huge pain in the butt.

Let us know what you think!