New York, N.Y.- The green and yellow faithful packed in to watch another Packers game. Screams of “Go Pack Go” reverberated throughout the stadium as Green Bay enjoyed a nice advantage given to them by their fans. The only issue is this game wasn’t being played at Lambeau Field, it was 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles.
The NFL’s thinking that Los Angeles could support and welcome two teams after not hosting any team for 21 years has backfired. The Rams have benefitted from their history in the City of Angels as a large chunk of their fans remained loyal when they returned home. The Chargers have been kicked to the curb and left virtually irrelevant in the second biggest media market in the United States.
This has turned the Chargers into a punch line, as no matter the opponent, the visiting fans take over and deck the stadium out in their colors. Even small market teams take over the Dignity Health Sports Park eight times a year.
A change has to be made because the NFL can’t be comfortable knowing Los Angeles is apathetic to one of it’s franchises. A move has to be made, but with San Diego all but out of the question, is there a place that can allow the Chargers to flourish? An answer might come across the pond.
The Athletic reported late Monday evening that while the Chargers still plan on moving into their new home in Inglewood next season, they would listen to the option of permanently playing in London. The report also went on to say that NFL owners, who expressed concern over the viability of the Chargers in Los Angeles, would support the move to London if pursued.
Bingo. This is it. This is the perfect situation for the Chargers to take advantage of. For the record, I’ve never been a fan of the London series and thought the idea of having a full-time team there was ludicrous. But this situation with the Chargers is different. I’m all-in on the Chargers moving to London, as this would provide a fresh start and more importantly, a fanbase they can call their own.
If your argument against a move to London is that the NFL should look at domestic options first, no U.S. market without an NFL team is as expansive, lucrative and already set up to embrace a franchise better than the London market. Moving the team to Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi or any other state wouldn’t generate the revenue to make it a logical choice. Not to mention with many of these states treating their college teams like professional teams, the Chargers wouldn’t capture the market as easily as they would in London.
The NFL in London has grown exponentially since it was first introduced 17 years ago. Of the last 28 games played in England, 25 have drawn at least 83,000 fans. While many of the locals that attend these games don jerseys of all 32 teams, having a team to call their own could draw them to drop the one team they were rooting for and latch on with the home team. I’m sure the Chargers would welcome this with open arms as they’ve never felt the home town support since leaving San Diego three years ago.
The infrastructure needed to house a team is already set. The recently completed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was built with the NFL in mind and half of the games played across the pond this season were played there, so it’s been tested and passed. Saving the cost of having to build a new stadium is an extraordinary advantage for London, as it was the lack of funding for a new stadium that forced the Chargers to leave San Diego in the first place.
The Athletic laid out the growing fanbase in the United Kingdom, citing that there are five million NFL fans, with four million of them being labeled as avid fans. Between streaming, social media engagement and an increasing digital presence, all of the numbers are pointing up, a good sign that the interest in the NFL is rampant in a soccer-crazed country.
This solution is without hurdles as travel, division layouts and other issues will need to be ironed out before this can be a practical solution. Would players be willing to play for a team in another country? The obstacles can be tough, but the reward of tapping into an international market full-time is something the NFL and the Chargers shouldn’t pass up.