God Save the Rams: NFL Franchise to Play a Game in London For Next Three Years

Could the NFL’s St. Louis Rams soon become the London Rams? The London Lambs perhaps?

Sam Bradford may want to familiarize himself with Wembley Stadium.

Big news dropped today from the league that the Rams will move one home game for the next three years to Wembley Stadium in London.   Next season’s game will be played Oct. 28 between the Rams and the New England Patriots.

The shift across the pond is nothing new. The league’s first regular season game outside the U.S. came in 2005 when the Cardinals and 49ers met in Mexico City, and every year since 2007 two teams have played a game in Wembley.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been keen on expanding the sport internationally, and once even hinted a Super Bowl could be played in London.

What makes this move interesting is that rather than having two teams randomly selected to play overseas, the Rams chose to move games to London with approval from Goodell. Unlike sports like baseball, basketball and hockey, football has a schedule of only 16 games per season, which means each team hosts eight home games. That allows teams only eight games to earn revenue through ticket sales, concession sales, game-day merchandise, parking, etc. Now the Rams, and more specifically the city of St. Louis, only has seven true home games through 2014.

Though the NFL is hugely popular, believe it or not there are some squads struggling through rough financial times, and the Rams are one of those teams. This past season the Rams finished 27th out of 32 teams in attendance, selling out only 86.3 percent of tickets in the Edward Jones Dome. Conversely, nine teams were at or above the 100 percent threshold of stadium capacity this season. The Rams finished 2-14 this season, tied for the worst record in the league with the Colts.

As Mike Sando of ESPN astutely points out, the fact that next season’s London game will feature the Patriots is a major blow to St. Louis. Though the Rams are struggling in attendance, the attraction of having Tom Brady and one of the league’s most exciting and successful teams would likely help boost ticket sales for the game. Now that the game is in London, however, St. Louis loses out on this possible revenue.

The news just dropped this morning so there will likely be reaction from across the league, but there are lots of things to consider: Could the Rams be relocating to London? I say probably not, but if the games draw huge fans like they have in the past then it would only add fuel to the fire. Could the Rams be relocating elsewhere (read: Los Angeles)? Very good chance of this I believe. It’s no secret the NFL would like to re-establish itself in L.A. Ironically, the last team in Tinseltown was the Rams, who moved out in 1995 at the same time the Raiders moved from L.A. to Oakland. In August, the city of Los Angeles unanimously approved a plan to build a $1.2-billion stadium.

The Rams will have a chance to leave St. Louis after their current lease with the Edward Jones Dome runs out in 2014. Don’t be shocked if the Rams, like Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis,” set off on a journey toward a new destination.

Photo (cc) by Dave Herholz and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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