The NFL is heading to China, but should it?
Brock Huard tends to defend the NFL when his co-host, Mike Salk, contends that the league’s moves and rule changes always revolve around money. But when it comes to the decision to bring regular seasons abroad, he believes there is no defense.
“It’s all about the money,” Huard said Tuesday. “We’re going to go to China and forget about the players; who cares about their time clock? It’s all about the money. It’s all about the bottom line.”
The NFL is working on putting a regular-season game in China for 2018, and the Los Angeles Times reported that the Rams would be the home team for that game. Times reporter Same Farmer wrote that the China concept makes sense for the Rams since they are now a West Coast team and thus are closer to the Far East.
The 2018 game in China would be part of the Rams’ pact to play three international games over the next three years. They’ll host a game next season in London, where the NFL has been playing regular-season games since 2007. The NFL is also reportedly looking at bringing a game to Germany and Mexico City.
John Clayton said this is the NFL’s direction, with potentially as many as 16 games being played overseas in the not-so-distant future.
“Ultimately every team is going to be losing a home game at some point unless they try to reconfigure the schedule,” Clayton said.
While Huard sees the idea as nothing but dollar signs, Salk sees other potential benefits for the future of the game.
“Of course it’s selfish. Of course the NFL is all about making money, but they’re just following the lead of all the other leagues,” Salk said. “I actually think there’s a secondary benefit here, which is actually globalizing the game from a talent perspective and not just a viewership perspective. Wouldn’t it make the game better to add a little international flavor to it?”
Huard acknowledged that other sports play their games overseas, but he argues that losing one of eight home games in the NFL is much more significant than a three-game homestand in baseball.
Huard said if the NFL is serious about expansion and growing the personnel and brand in the game, it should invest in re-building the developmental league NFL Europe, which disbanded in 2007.
“If you really want to do this well, and it’s really about growing your talent and your brand, then subsidize that league back in Europe that was advantageous for Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Damon Huard,” he said. “But it didn’t work in Europe; it didn’t create revenue. It was wonderful here, but they just weren’t into it.”
NFL Competition Committee head Rich McKay told reporters earlier this week that NFL Europe did have a positive impact for some linemen and officiating but that it was “very costly” and that “we transitioned quite quickly to the idea that we liked having more practice-squad players than we did a developmental league.”