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  • No sports league in the world makes more money than the American National Football League.

  • The NFL earns more yearly revenue than the English Premier League, the Champions League,

  • Formula One, the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League, and the Kontinental Hockey

  • League combined.

  • It is by far the largest sports league in the world by revenue.

  • Making up the NFL are 32 football teams each themselves essentially acting as their own

  • distinct businesses.

  • These teams are spread out all across the contiguous United Statessome only 30 miles

  • or 45 kilometers apart from each other, some nearly 3,000 miles or 4,500 kilometers apart.

  • Now, American football teams are some of the largest in sports, both physically and in

  • numbers.

  • They have a roster of 56 playersthe majority of which play in any given game.

  • These players weigh on average about 250 pounds or 110 kilograms.

  • This team size leads to some particular travel needs.

  • Players each require a first class seat or, at the very least, the seat next to them free

  • in economy meaning those 56 players take up far more than 56 seats.

  • On top of that, a team typically brings more than 100 support staff and an immense amount

  • of cargo to each away game.

  • With the exception of the largest, most valuable ones, most other professional sports teams

  • in the US will just fly on chartered narrow-body aircraft like a320's, 737's, or 757's,

  • but most NFL teams, given their size, require something larger.

  • NFL teams tend to charter their aircraft from commercial airlinesAmerican, Delta, United,

  • or Hawaiian Airlinesand they'll typically fly something a bit larger than other teams

  • like a 767 or sometimes even a 777, but the nature of this charter job makes finding a

  • plane to take them particularly difficult.

  • You see, let's take the example of the New York Jets' last game of the 2018 season

  • versus the New England Patriots on December 30th.

  • For this game, they left the day before on a United Airlines 767-400 at 3:37 pm landing

  • 30 minutes later, at 4:07 pm, in Providence, Rhode Island.

  • The plane then sat on the ground at Providence airport for the next 26 hours until the game

  • was over.

  • The following day, the plane took off at 6:30 pm bound for New York.

  • The aircraft's previous flight had been to Buenos Aires and its next flight was to

  • London and yet for these 26 hours, United only made money from the half hour charter

  • flight to and from Providence.

  • It's easy to understand why this wouldn't really be worth it to the airline, but at

  • least the Jets are located next to a United Airlines hub at Newark airport.

  • Many teams, like the New Orleans Saints, for example, are not located in a city with any

  • airline hub.

  • That makes finding an airline to take their charter contract even more difficult.

  • That's because, for example, when the team had to travel to Charlotte last season, the

  • 767 that took them had to fly in empty from Houston, the nearest United hub, then fly

  • to Charlotte, sit on the ground for 33 hours, fly back to New Orleans, then once again fly

  • emptythis time all the way to New York.

  • All told, for the 2 hours and 51 minutes of flight time United was paid for, they used

  • this airplane for about 44 hours.

  • Being located away from an airline hub, where planes are based, means charter flights will

  • almost always require a plane flying in empty.

  • It is for this reason that airlines are raising rates or just flat-out stopping flying NFL

  • teams as they find normal, commercial flying a more lucrative use of their aircraft.

  • American Airlines, in recent years, for example, dropped all the many teams they previously

  • flew except for the Carolina Falcons, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Philadelphia Eaglesthree

  • teams located at their hub airports.

  • More teams have moved their contract to dedicated charter companies such as Atlas Air or Miami

  • Air International, while the New England Patriots even bought their own set of planes to solve

  • this issue.

  • Some other teams still have contracts with commercial airlines but have switched to flying

  • multiple smaller planes as these can be in less demand.

  • The Indianapolis Colts, for example, now typically travel in two Delta 757's leaving within

  • a half hour of each other.

  • Other American sports, such as Hockey, Baseball, and Basketball, don't have nearly as much

  • of a problem because they play far more games a season, which makes their contract a more

  • attractive one to the airlines, and they also typically use smaller aircraft of which there

  • are more available.

  • The NFL briefly considered investing in its own fleet of aircraft or at least negotiating

  • a deal with an airline in bulk, like the NBA does with Delta, but for now, NFL teams are

  • seeing their travel costs skyrocket as the laws of supply and demand take hold.

  • After losing their contract with American Airlines, for example, the Jacksonville Jaguars

  • saw their travel costs double to $4 million a year as they chartered an Atlas Air 747

  • and remember, those $4 million pay for the travel costs to a mere eight away games.

  • But the NFL's most daunting logistics problem is not this.

  • Their most daunting logistics problem relates to the NFL's other big problemexpansion.

  • You see, part of the reason the NFL is the most valuable sports league in the world is

  • because of how saturated the football market is in the US.

  • 57% of Americans identify as NFL fans.

  • That's an amazing level of market saturation for what is, at its core, a business, but

  • that also presents a problem because, with such a high proportion of the population already

  • fans, it's quite difficult for the NFL to expand their audience, at least within the

  • US.

  • In the past decade or so, the league has turned its attention internationally.

  • The NFL now plays regular season games in Mexico City and London.

  • These cities don't have home teams but rather, two teams from the US will come out and play.

  • For the most part, these international games are about promoting the sport in these two

  • countries which already have significant fanbases watching the sport on TV.

  • There's never been more than one game a season in Mexico City but in London, in the

  • 2019 season, they're playing four regular season games.

  • With the 16 regular-season games per team per year, any other city that has a resident

  • NFL team typically only has eight home games meaning London's quantity is really not

  • that far off.

  • What's more, the Jacksonville Jaguars are designated as a sort of home team for London

  • and therefore play at least one of their games there each year in an attempt to give the

  • city and country a clear team to root for.

  • The league has even said that it plans to eventually have a full eight games per season

  • in Londonthe same as any home city in the US.

  • The reason there are now so many NFL games in London is because the sport of American

  • football has gained significant inroads in the UK audience.

  • The NFL estimates that it has 13 million fans in the UK, 4 million of which watch regularly,

  • and 47,000 of which buy games to every single NFL game in the UK.

  • Its dedication to the UK has become so significant that it contributed $12.5 million to the construction

  • of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London.

  • This recently opened stadium was built to become the home of the NFL in the UK.

  • It has a permanent synthetic American football pitch under its grass soccer field; purpose

  • built, NFL-sized locker rooms; and a media suite built to the preferences of NFL press.

  • In the coming years, at least two NFL games will occur each year at this stadium.

  • Now, the logistics of these international games in London are formidable.

  • When the Seahawks played in London in 2018, they had to ship 1,150 rolls of athletic tape,

  • about 4,000 pounds or 1,800 kilograms of medical supplies, 350 power adapters, 500 shoes, 240

  • pairs of socks, and tens of thousands of other pounds of equipment to the city weeks ahead

  • of their arrival.

  • Months before, they had to arrange for many of their players, who had never left the US,

  • to get passports.

  • The team's trainers had to carefully schedule their players sleep in the week leading up

  • to reduce jet-lag.

  • There's even a hotel in Watford with a purpose built American football practice pitch that

  • the teams typically stay in.

  • While these London matches come at great difficulty and force teams to sacrifice a coveted home

  • game, the teams and their owners seem to tolerate them given their infrequency and the promise

  • of the UK market.

  • But the promise of the UK market could push the NFL to stretch beyond eight international

  • series games a year there.

  • You see, there is some very real, very serious discussion of putting a National Football

  • League team in London.

  • There is little doubt that the city and country could support a team in terms of fanbase.

  • The issue, according to the league's commissioner, would be having one solitary team stationed

  • more than 3,000 miles or 5,000 kilometers away from the next.

  • It would be an immense logistics problem considering that, for the weekly games, teams would have

  • to take flights as long as eleven hours crossing up to eight timezones.

  • On the flip side, this London NFL team would have to travel continuously throughout the

  • US for weeks at a time since, practically, it wouldn't make sense for them to return

  • to London between the weekly games.

  • This would come at enormous expense, would likely impact their performance, and prove

  • unpopular with their players.

  • In addition, as the UK does not yet have significant American football talent, the majority of

  • this teams players would come from the US and would need to be persuaded, either monetarily

  • or otherwise, to live outside their home country.

  • Those are just some of the cost problems.

  • Beyond that, it is not cheap to fly a whole NFL team over the Atlantic every week.

  • For the international series games, teams were flown on chartered Virgin Atlantic 747

  • or a330's arranged by the league, but if London had a fully fledged NFL team, it would

  • likely be treated just like any other team meaning both them and their American competitors

  • would have to arrange their own flights.

  • The wide-body planes teams would have to charter to cross the Atlantic come at a cost of up

  • to $50,000 per flight hour.

  • That means that transatlantic travel costs, just in terms of the flight, would be anywhere

  • between $650,000 for an east coast team or up to a full $1 million for west coast teams.

  • Teams also tend to carry tens of thousands of pounds of cargo to each away game which

  • would further escalate the cost.

  • While such an expense would be little issue for large, wealthy teams like the Dallas Cowboys

  • or New England Patriots, teams with smaller budgets like the Detroit Lions or Cleveland

  • Browns would certainly have more of an issue with potentially adding an extra million in

  • travel costs.

  • But this level of team isolation is not unprecedented.

  • Further west, in the middle of the Pacific, the University of Hawaii has a division one

  • college football teamthe Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

  • The closest team in their conference is 2,600 miles or 4,200 kilometers away in San Diego.

  • To get there, they take a five hour flight.

  • That's only an hour or two faster than it would take a London NFL team to get to its

  • closest competitorthe New England Patriots.

  • While the furthest team in the Rainbow Warrior's conference is only a seven or eight hour flight

  • away in Colorado Springs, Colorado, they do play a number of non-conference games each

  • year which take them all the way to the US east coastan up to 10 hour flight away

  • from Honolulu which is almost exactly the same as the longest required travel time for

  • an NFL team to London.

  • Not only that, but the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors also have to balance their time with class

  • schedules which means that they travel to their away games far closer to kickoff than

  • NFL teams typically do to London.

  • The Rainbow Warriors regularly rack up more travel miles than any professional football

  • team.

  • For example, in one particularly grueling month in 2016, the team started its season

  • with an international match in Sydney, Australia, then the next weekend played in Ann Arbor,

  • Michigan, then the weekend after that played in Tucson, Arizona meaning they flew 25,000

  • miles or 40,000 kilometers in just one month.

  • The Rainbow Warriors also make most of their trips on commercial flights making their travel

  • even more difficult than that of NFL teams.

  • Now, this does potentially give the team a more significant home-field advantage since

  • they're used to playing with jet lag while their opponents, when they fly to Hawaii,

  • would not be, but it also supports the view that, logistically, it would be possible to

  • add an NFL team in London.

  • There are even professional sports leagues that already regularly require travel over

  • similar or greater distances.

  • The Kontinental Hockey League, for example, has teams spread out all across Asia and Eastern

  • Europe meaning the teams from Beijing, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Beijing regularly have to

  • travel more than 4,000 miles or 6,500 kilometers to play the teams from Minsk, Riga, and Helsinki.

  • An even more extreme example would be Super Rugby which has teams spread out across Japan,

  • Argentina, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

  • With this, when the Tokyo Sunwolves play the Buenos Aires Janguares, for example, they

  • have to travel more than 11,000 miles or 18,000 kilometers each way to their match.

  • Part of the NFL's problem is just the pure scale of their competitions with many tens

  • of thousands of pounds of equipment and many hundreds of staff traveling to each game.

  • The problems are surmountable, though, at a cost but this cost would be partially burdened

  • by every other team in the league.

  • The question is then, given the promise of adding a whole new country to the league,

  • is the cost worth it.

  • Now, if the NFL expands to London, one of the first things the new team will need is

  • a logo.

  • Luckily, there's a class on Skillshare for that.

  • Professional animator Fraser Davidson, who actually has done design work for the NFL,

  • teaches this fantastic course which walks you through the process of creating your own

  • mascot.

  • This is just one of over 25,000 classes on Skillshare which each teach you something

  • that you can use for your job, for school, or just for fun.

  • A few more that I would recommend are Storytelling 101, the Productivity Masterclass, and Cinematography

  • Basics, all of which you can download offline on the iOS or Android apps.

  • You can learn from any of these more than 25,000 classes for free for a month by signing

  • up at skl.sh/wendover6 and you'll be supporting the show while you're at it.

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The NFL's Logistics Problem

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/11
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