There are some suggestions that the National Football League ownership group is open to start the 2018 regular season in China. That would be 11 years after the league had scheduled a pre-season game in Beijing exactly 365 days prior to the opening of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks was never played.
There never really has been a real answer as to why the NFL could not pull off a game in Beijing, just that the NFL wanted to concentrate promoting the first ever regular season game that was scheduled in London, England in October of 2007 between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins. The NFL rescheduled the China Bowl as it was called for 2009 but that too was canceled.
The NFL is a big time player in the United States but the United States has just 6 percent of the world’s population and the NFL is far behind soccer, basketball, baseball and hockey on the global stage. While the NFL has a big following in Canada, particularly the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, the league failed to generate much interest in Toronto playing an annual game featuring the Buffalo Bills and that series was canceled in 2013.
The league will play a game in Mexico City in November and there is the annual series of games in London. The NFL’s major problem is that American football is played just in America starting with youngsters in Pop Warner then in middle and high school and in college. The rest of the world doesn’t play American football so with the exception of Mexico, where the Dallas Cowboys are a known brand and where there is interest in the game.
The league has to start from scratch in selling and developing the product. The NFL has a steep challenge in finding an audience in China.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.