A typical scene during the NFL London 2021 match between the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 17, 2021 in London, England.
Alex Pantling | Getty Images
The NFL says it plans to increase its international business to 1 billion annually and attract more followers.
But some work has to be done before the league. And it involves flag football.
“Over the next five years, we want to expand NFL flag football,” said Damani Leach, chief operating officer of NFL International.
In an interview with CNBC at the NFL’s annual meeting this past week, Leech discussed the next steps in expanding the NFL abroad. He said that in the next 10 years, NFL projects will attract 50 million customers internationally. It will add 180 million subscribers internally and more than 150 million international fans who have already swallowed the most popular US game.
“That’s our big number that we’re focusing on,” Leach says.
Here’s a look inside the NFL’s 10-year international plan.
The Olympics need NFL flag football
“We need to make the game important,” Leach said while discussing the importance of expanding the game abroad.
And to do that, the NFL needs the Olympics.
The league flag is pushing for the inclusion of football in the summer games. Flag Football Like Gridiron Football, there is no tackling and no pads or helmets are required to participate.
“If flag football becomes an Olympic sport, more countries will invest in that sport,” Leach said.
This will not be the first time football has been targeted for Olympic inclusion.
American football was included in the 1932 Olympic Games as an exhibition sport. Since then, it has not been recognized. In 1996, apparel company Reebok Gridiron unsuccessfully lobbied for football to re-enter the Olympic landscape where Dallas Cowboys ring back Emit Smith was shown.
But in 2013, the International Olympic Committee recognized the International Federation of American Football as a governing body. It could help the NFL qualify for the 2028 Olympic Games.
During the Super Bowl weekend in Los Angeles earlier this year, Leach said the NFL hosted a U.S. vs. Mexico flag football game that included both men and women – an Olympic requirement. Casey Wasserman, the media executive who led the push for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, was in attendance. He was also chairman of the Super Bowl host committee in LA.
LA28 officials did not provide Wasserman for comment on the matter. However, Leach, CEO of Wasserman Media Group, said the flag was a “supporter of the idea” of including football.
“I think they were impressed with the speed of it,” Leach said of the other LA28 officials watching the 5-on-five football game. “It’s a positionless football where everyone is a receiver, and everyone is a quarterback. You can see its speed and it’s entertaining.”
Also, the NFL flag is lined with the 2022 World Games of Football, which will be held in Alabama from July 7 to July 17. The games feature men’s and women’s teams from countries including Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and Mexico.
Leach added that the World Games would be “a great opportunity to show IOC what this game looks like. It’s competitive and exciting.”
Hamburg quarterback Rod Rutherford (C) in action during the NFL Europe match between the Hamburg C Devils and Cologne Centurions on April 14, 2007 at the AOL Arena in Hamburg, Germany.
Alexander Husainstein Bongarts | Getty Images
Lessons from the NFL Europe Test
As the league lobbied IOC officials, Leach remained steadfast in its search for new international markets.
The NFL already has a base in Europe. It says it has another 4 million “oriented” fans in Canada Leach is traveling to Africa this month to find business opportunities for high school students around the world to teach American football and to line up NFL academies.
The league has increased its worldwide scouting with its NFL Players Pathway program. This unit is used to attract and develop unconventional players around the world. In March 2020, the NFL began trying to lure soccer players into the program because it wanted to convert these players to potential NFL kicker positions.
The NFL has tried to promote football internationally in previous years but failed to produce significant results.
In 1991, the NFL helped launch the American Football World League and helped local teams, including San Antonio and Sacramento, play in a league that included international clubs. WLFA did not last long. In 1995, it was folded and rebranded as NFL Europe. That business closed in 2007.
Currently, the NFL is experimenting with playing games in Europe – mainly featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars. At its annual meeting last week, the owners approved plans to play Jaguar at Wembley Stadium in London for the next three years.
While discussing why the NFL will operate in Europe this time around, Leach cited the league’s history with spring football, saying it has cultivated fans.
“Did it work for the league financially?” He said. “No. But it has done a lot of good.”
For the 2022 season, the NFL has scheduled five games abroad – three games in London, one in Germany and one in Mexico.
Leach said the German market “surpasses many other markets in terms of spectators, consumer products. They are consuming sports without playing our game there.”
NFL Sunday ticket sister property
In December 2021, the NFL, with its International Home Marketing Areas Plan, allowed teams access to collect more revenue and consumer data. This allowed 18 teams across 26 international regions to gain the “commercialization” of the game. If it works, it only helps fuel the league’s international media resource – the NFL game pass.
Leach described the resource as another version of the NFL Sunday ticket, but only for fans outside the United States. In this package, international subscribers can stream live on all platforms, including DAZN, which licenses NFL content for streaming revenue in Canada.
Damani Leach, NFL COO
Leach says NFL game passes have reached 1 million paying customers in Europe, 600,000. Although consumers in Europe still do not pay for game passes, the NFL knows who they are through data collection. “We need to increase that number,” Leach said of the NFL game passes.
It also benefits the fanatics. Since the e-commerce and memorabilia companies are partially owned by the NFL, and rely on the league’s consumer information. Fanatics has 80 million users, which is the basis of its 27 27 billion valuation.
Global landscape planning may be hampered
The NFL’s plans for further international expansion face a number of challenges.
There is no guarantee that the IOC will accept the flag as a sport. On Friday, the IOC revealed that sports federations need to respect a set of “principles” before any consideration can be made for Olympic integration. The decision to add flag football will be made after the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Harvey Schiller, a former executive director of the US Olympic Committee, said the NFL needed to take a number of steps to get flag football on the Olympic radar.
The first step is to find more countries to play the game.
“The second step is to spend time with IOC members who vote on it. It takes a lot of time and energy,” Schiller said. They want to involve more of the best athletes, he added. “They want to see players who have competed in the NFL or will compete in the future,” he said.
The NFL must compete with football in many international markets. In Australia, the league has to compete with the continent’s own version of football as well as rugby.
The NBA has already captured a large international market, establishing ব্যবসা 5 billion in China and $ 1 billion in Africa. India also wants to join.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also creating fear in the declining globalization business. This could further jeopardize the growth of countries whose ideals do not match American values.
Leach says the NFL has pulled all of its business into Russia, with annual revenues of about $ 300,000, mostly from electronic arts Madden football video games.
“We can’t profit in a market where something like that is happening,” Leach said. Asked if the NFL would consider pulling its 2022 games abroad if the war escalated, Leach replied: “If it turns out to be something bigger, we’ll fix it.”
Even so, Leach has expressed confidence in the NFL’s international growth plans for the next 10 years.
Where will the NFL be at that time?
Leach estimated that it would be “deeply involved” with football fans in 12 to 15 markets worldwide. The NFL’s game pass streaming business will have more than 3 million subscribers, he said.
“And, depending on the market,” Leach added, “the top three most popular sports features in that country.”