When the 2020 season kicks off, the Green Bay Packers will be the last team left in the NFL that has never played a game in London.
As of 2019, that list includes Houston and Carolina, but the Texans and Panthers are slated to play a game in the U.K. capital during the upcoming season.
While the reasons behind keeping Green Bay on the western side of the pond are many and solid — more on this shortly — there are two people in the Packers’ organization who would love to take a sport dominated by New England to Jolly Old England.
One is team president Mark Murphy, and the other is star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Speaking to NFL UK, Rodgers was quite clear on his views.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) February 7, 2019
“I know I’ve made my feelings known about wanting to go over there,” Rodgers said. “Our president has made it known.”
Murphy was asked about it last April and said he wanted to see it happen by 2020 “at the latest.”
But Rodgers pointed out the immediate problem with the NFL scheduling a game for the Packers in London, and it came down to a simple matter of attendance at Wembley Stadium as opposed to attendance back in the good ol’ US of A.
“We travel too well. Nobody wants to give up a home game with the Packers because they know it’s going to be a full house,” Rodgers said. “We’re not going to give up a home game, because we’re sold out for the next 30 years, and nobody wants to give up a home game when we come to town.”
In the rock-paper-scissors world of revenue sources, with the massive size of NFL stadiums and the high cost of every ticket, the gate receipts are nothing to sneeze at.
Even though the NFL has a rich TV deal and a revenue-sharing system so far-reaching that The Atlantic once quipped that it’s “America’s socialist sports league,” the average NFL team still makes about $7.4 million per game in ticketing and concession sales. And it’s probably safe to assume that revenue is not evenly distributed but rather includes a higher take on games where a division rival, popular team or other marquee matchup is in town. More people are coming to watch the Packers as the visiting team than, say, the Arizona Cardinals.
And as Rodgers pointed out, the waiting list at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field is so long that the number of names on the list (133,000, according to 247 Sports) is greater than the population of Green Bay itself (105,116, according to the Census Bureau).
The Packers aren’t going to give up a home game when the wait to get into the stadium is already a list so long you could get on it on the day you’re born and not live long enough to get season tickets.
The solution, according to Rodgers, is obvious; don’t force Green Bay to give up a home game, and don’t rely on the benevolence of some other team to willingly take a game with the Packers in London instead of their home building.
Put simply, that’s why the NFL has a commissioner.
“Hopefully, at some point, the league will intervene and make us go there because we all want to go there,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers doesn’t just want to go to London because of football; he wants the tourist opportunity that NFL teams get when the league sends them on a bohemian rhapsody in the hometown of the Queen.
“The atmosphere is great, but I think the consensus is to be over there for the whole week,” Rodgers said. “The guys that went over Thursday and Friday said it’s tough for the time change, they’re a little tired, and plus, you don’t get to do anything. Our week is not that bad schedule-wise, other than Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so if you get over there on like, a Monday, you’ll be able to go around the city. Maybe there’s a Premier League game we could watch, just to be able to kind of enjoy the environment.”
The Premier League idea is nice, but if you really want the London experience, that’s what Millwall FC is for.
Rodgers is dating racecar driver Danica Patrick, and she’s told tales of the Packers’ popularity around the world, including a story from Paris at the fore of Rodgers’ mind.
“There’s so many great fans over there. There’s Packers bars in all these countries,” Rodgers said. “There’s one in Paris. Danica went to the one in Paris. It’s incredible. The reach of the NFL has become so great.”
The Packers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in 2020, and that’s a game especially ripe for the NFL to step in and move to London.
After all, Tampa hosts the Super Bowl that year, and if they’re complaining about the lost stadium gate, the league can sensibly point out that losing one game’s revenue has nothing on getting back the money and then some from hosting the biggest sporting event in North American sports.
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