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NFL study outlines economic potential of London franchise

An NFL American football franchise in London could generate in excess of $250m (€195.6m) a year for the UK, according to a study released by business advisory firm Deloitte.

Commissioned by the London & Partners agency, the study suggested that the city itself could enjoy an annual economic boost of $165m from hosting eight games. Including spending outside London linked directly or indirectly with the franchise, the study said the franchise’s potential gross output in the UK could total $255m per season.

The report was based on players and staff playing two games on four visits each season, rather than actually being based in London. NFL executive vice-president of international, Mark Waller, said the report will be discussed at the next owners’ meeting in 2015.

“There is no value to anybody putting a team here and finding the rigors of the season do not allow it to compete at the highest level,” Waller said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “So that's the work we are going to do. That's probably a five-year piece of work.”

Despite painting a relatively positive picture of a London team, the 30-page report did cast doubt over the feasibility of the city hosting the showpiece Super Bowl end-of-season event and warned of a negative response from fans in the US.

The report highlighted the difficulty of selecting a suitable kick-off time in London. Starting at the traditional 4pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) would mean kicking off at 9pm in the UK, thus causing significant transport problems for those attending the game at Wembley Stadium, the current UK host venue for NFL matches. The Deloitte report suggested a kick-off time of 6pm London time.

The Deloitte study also said fewer die-hard fans and season ticket holders from the US would be able to attend matches in London. The report warned that the atmosphere inside the stadium and on television could suffer as a result, thus impacting the NFL’s wider global brand presence.

The report said: “The reaction from the NFL's core US market could focus on the negative implications of moving a definitively 'American' event overseas for reasons that may be perceived as solely financial or commercial.”

In addition to a London franchise, the report addressed the matter of the NFL International Series, during which a number of regular season games take place in London each year. Although the NFL confirmed this week that it would not increase the number of games in the series to more than three next year, the report said if the NFL were to add an extra game then the city could experience a financial boost of around $94m.

The two games in 2013 generated around $52m in revenue for London, with league spending accounting for a quarter of this total. Renting and securing Wembley cost the NFL approximately $3.4m for the two matches.

Wembley will serve as the host venue for such matches until at least 2016 but the NFL has appeared to rule out the possibility of using the Olympic Stadium in east London as an alternate venue. The facility, which served as the main stadium for the city’s hosting of the 2012 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, will soon house English Premier League football club West Ham United and is to be revamped before playing host to its new tenant.

“When we looked at that venue before West Ham took it on it wasn't clear to us how it was going to end up as a venue,” Waller added.