As is a surprise to precisely nobody, the National Football League is a business, and as a business, part of their model consists of a continual eye for expansion, especially in the expansion of new markets.
Every offseason for the past few years now, there have been intense rumors, for example, that a current NFL franchise would move to Los Angeles, which has hosted a few teams in the past, but has been vacant of an NFL team for some years now. More recently, there has even been the suggestion that multiple teams could be playing there.
As the league continues to expand its lead as the largest professional sports brand in North America, it has also continued its global outreach, continuing to expand its foothold in particular in England, where it will hold three regular season games in 2015.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, of course, recently played overseas, as they were the ‘visiting’ team against the Vikings in London during the fourth week of the 2013 season, a game that they lost late, spoiling a two-touchdown debut for Le’Veon Bell.
But it does seem curious that the NFL is putting such great emphasis on expanding into Europe, even talking about starting a franchise in England by 2020, when there are markets in which to expand yet in North America.
Sure, the league has an exhibition game in Mexico from time to time, but it has been a decade since there has last been a regular season game hosted south of the border, where there is a hungry and growing fan base.
In an article on Fox New Latino published yesterday, in fact, the Steelers—Mexico’s most popular NFL franchise—has a greater fan base there than all NFL franchises combined have in the United Kingdom.
The Steelers, in fact, even have a greater fanbase in Mexico than certain NFL franchises even have in their home countries. Just imagine how that might expand if the league actually started to pay greater attention to our southern neighbors the way they are trying to expand into Europe.
It would make a tremendous amount of more practical sense, for starters, to host a team in Mexico than it would in England, for not the least of which reason being the logistics of having NFL franchises travel to the location of the new franchise.
A trip to Mexico is certainly easier done than a transcontinental trip, and the prospect of having that trip made up to 16 times a year or more—by the home team and the visiting teams—will likely be met with chagrin by many of the teams once the novelty of the travel wears off.
While the league acknowledges that expansion into Mexico is “high on our list” when it comes to “the next phase of development outside the U.S.”, the emphasis for now remains in England. And while the quality of the fan base in Europe should not be diminished, I would be remiss to fail to note the passion and fervor that I have seen from many of the Mexican readers and followers of this site.
Perhaps I’m just surprised to see that the NFL is not currently doing more to engage its growing Latin American fan base, and area in which it is well behind, for example, the NBA.