THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
(St. George’s, Grenada) -- National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is looking for ways to globalize the American game. The NFL is attempting to establish a stronghold in England with an annual game in London and also by giving the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise exclusive marketing rights in the UK. The league might also have an interest in getting a long term lease at London Olympics stadium, which has been closed for renovations.
Goodell also has expressed, on behalf of his owners, a desire to see American football included in the Summer Olympics despite the fact that only one country --America-- plays American football on a high level. Goodell contends more than 60 countries play a version of American football but other than a stray Canadian and a handful of others virtually everyone who enters the NFL is an American.
American football just doesn’t have any traction in countries in the Western Hemisphere other than American and Canada although there seems to be some interest in the game in Mexico. There doesn’t seem to be American football on two of the American Virgin Islands – St. Croix and St. Thomas. In fact, one baseball field in St. Croix is in really poor shape and could use some help from a sports league to clean up the grounds.
The NFL didn’t seem to be much of a big deal on St. Croix on Sunday as the beach was a far bigger draw than sitting in front of a TV on the American-owned Caribbean Island.
A recent trip to three southern Caribbean islands, St. Kitts, Dominica and Grenada found almost no interest in the National Football League. There are football fields in Basseterre, St. Kitts, Rousseau, Dominica and St. George’s, Grenada but the local games are the international version of football and cricket. In Grenada, there are billboards saluting the country’s 2012 London Olympics gold medal winner, the 20-year-old Kirani James who won the 400 meters race. The Olympics are a big deal in countries like Grenada. Kirani James will have a stadium named after him and the country honored him after the Olympics by giving every worker in the country a half day off. Sept. 1, Jones’s birthday, will become a national holiday and he will be honored on a postal stamp.
At the fort in the middle of St. George’s where the 1983 revolution Grenada, the local police academy has a basketball court along with a gym and on top of the hill you can look out and see a school with a huge grass spots facility. It features a football field, but it is not the American gridiron. Rather, it is an international football field.
Grenada was one of eight Caribbean countries to host the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The NFL schedules games outside of the United States in just two countries, Canada and England. The Canadian game is played in Toronto which is about 90 minutes from Buffalo as part of a Buffalo Bills ownership deal with Toronto promoters.
No wonder Goodell wants a piece of the Olympics. The NFL will not get a global look in 2016 like rugby or golf at the Rio Summer Games. The NFL never gets much of a global glance except in London. Similarly, the NFL has never been able to figure out how to stage a game in China. The last time the NFL scheduled a game in Beijing was in 2007 which was to have coincide with the 365 day countdown to the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The game never took place. The NFL has never clearly explained why the league failed in Beijing. The NFL-backed troika of the World League of American Football, NFL Europe and NFL Europa was a financial failure. American colleges have played some games internationally with Notre Dame-Navy playing earlier this year in Dublin, Ireland.
The National Football League is losing world class athletes to other sports globally. As long ago as 2006, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowen said the league was trying to find markets outside of Toronto that would fit into the NFL’s international expansion plans. The league wanted to make Beijing an NFL destination spot but at the Orlando spring meetings there was one owner who really wondered about China and the NFL.
The New York Jets Woody Johnson said that one of the reasons the NFL might not work in China was because “China doesn’t have enough big people.” That though doesn’t seem to be the problem. A lack of interest in American football is the main problem. The NFL is not the National Basketball Association which is extremely popular in China. New England Patriots owners Robert Kraft’s team was supposed to have played in that Beijing game.