There has been a lot of speculation today that the NFL is getting closer and closer to moving a franchise to London to help spread the game across the Atlantic and continue their campaign to make football a global sport.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that sources connected to the situation believe the Jacksonville Jaguars are the most likely team to move to England, but his colleague Pete Prisco (who does not have any sources in this article) speculated that the Buccaneers could be the team to move to the UK and start the NFL’s first international franchise.
Prisco’s logic is that the Buccaneers struggle more with attendance despite being in a “bigger” market, and that most of the speculation surrounding the Jaguars is simply due to their poor performance on the field. He also digs deep to connect the dots between the Buccaneers’ ownership of Manchester United and their geographical presence in the United Kingdom, which is apparently another logical step to move the team to England.
He does not mention the Buccaneers incredible facilities, which are among the best in the NFL, and the previous waiting list for season tickets. He also fails to mention that the Glazer Family may own the Red Devils of Manchester United, but they’re widely hated in England and stand to gain very little by forcing themselves on the English fanbase any more than they already have. There is money to be made in the UK by selling American football tickets, and collecting bets on American football games, but the Glazers are unlikely to wade any deeper into the shark infested water of British sport.
It’s easy to say the Buccaneers don’t draw fans, and are at risk of moving. But instead having the ownership buying tickets and pretending attendance is okay, the Bucs’ owners are investing in players who will bring more attention to the team over the next few years. The Tampa sports’ culture is very strong, one trip to a Tampa Bay Lightning game tells you all you need to know. It’s just a very fickle sports’ culture, and it’s an area that has been affected by the current economic situation. The Buccaneers failed to put a compelling product on the field over the past few years, and the fans took action. And with ticket prices going up, there was little incentive to head back to Raymond James. But the improved public image put forth by the team, and the efforts to improve the on-the-field product will certainly reap rewards as we head into 2013 and beyond.
So yes, I guess the Buccaneers might have had a couple down years in terms of attendance, and owners who know where London is. But the Glazers are no more likely than Channing Crowder to want to move to London to play football (If you don’t get the Channing Crowder reference, check out this article from a few years ago). They’re committed to making the Buccaneers better in Tampa Bay, and that’s where the team will stay. For now, and for the foreseeable future.