The NFL has been discussing overseas markets in some form or fashion for many years now. We have even had serious talk about the possible permanent location of an NFL franchise to another country — such as the Jacksonville Jaguars to London — which even got to the point where the logistics of such a move were being discussed.
It was perhaps that discussion that helped cool down such talk in recent years, but the league is no less serious about continuing to try to expand its market internationally. Announced earlier this year is that they intend to have a set number of games played in other countries every year. The NFL would require each team to play in at least one every eight years.
Peter King wrote yesterday for Football Morning in America that the league is interested in creating “home teams” for international markets, connecting certain franchises through regional ties. The Jaguars already have a relationship with London, and play there every year (expect 2020 due to COVID-19), but he also suggested the Pittsburgh Steelers with Dublin.
After all, the Steelers’ Rooney family is famously Irish. The late Dan Rooney served a term as Ambassador to Ireland from 2009 to 2012, and helped to found The Ireland Funds. You can purchase Ruanaidh: The Story of Art Rooney and His Clan at bookstores near you.
In 2018, Art Rooney II talked about how he’d like his team to be the one to return to Ireland; they’d played a preseason game there in 1997. “We’ll, we’d certainly like to play a game over there”, he said on 93.7 The Fan at the time.
“My dad would have loved to have seen us play another game”, he added. “As you may know, we did play a preseason game over there in the nineties and he was always hoping we’d get a chance to do that again. So you never know, maybe we’ll pull it off at some point”.
But the Steelers also have a big fanbase in Mexico, and Rooney has expressed a desire to play in front of their fans again, as well. That’s probably a more realistic immediate possibility as opposed to Ireland, which may be a more long-term plan.
King spoke to NFL CSO Chris Halpin about what he envisions an NFL schedule to look like for international games five years from now. He suggested four games in London, including two volunteers, and two more international games — “maybe one in Germany and one in Mexico”.
The veteran journalist continued to highlight Germany as a future target, saying the league is “bullish” about playing there once a year, with a “nearly NFL-ready” stadium in Munich, with Berlin and Frankfurt as other possible venues.
The NFL, of course, had NFL Europe (among its other names over the years), which included several teams from Germany, including James Harrison’s Rhein Fire. With the new 17-game schedule, I would assume that the league would try to ensure that most who serve as the ‘home’ team for international games will be doing so in years in which they have nine home games, as opposed to eight.