• Loading stock data...
Sunday, February 25, 2024
Rates for the 2024 Best Venue Awards increase this Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET

Germany Could Be The NFL’s Gateway To International Domination

  • The Chiefs host the Dolphins in the first NFL game in Frankfurt on Sunday.
  • Kansas City wants to play games in Germany every season they are eligible.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game

MLB: The Show's Storylines option brings the Negro Leagues to life in a new way.
Listen Now
February 23, 2024 | Podcast

There are no direct commercial flights from Kansas City to Germany, but the area’s football fans might push for them soon.

On Sunday, German fans of American football will get their second taste of NFL regular-season action when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins in what is undoubtedly the league’s highest-profile international game to date. Both 6-2 teams are tied for the best record in the AFC, and quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa are among the MVP favorites midway through the season.

In 2022, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks treated fans in Munich to such a successful German debut that the NFL decided to play not one but two games in Frankfurt this fall. Next week, the New England Patriots will play the Indianapolis Colts. Both games sold out almost immediately this summer.

The Chiefs last played in Europe in 2015 for a matchup against the Detroit Lions in London — but the team hopes to become a particularly consistent presence in Germany. 

“We’d play [another] game there as soon as we possibly could,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan told Front Office Sports.

Kansas City has commercial rights in Germany under the NFL’s Global Markets Program, along with the Atlanta Falcons, Bucs, Carolina Panthers, and Patriots. The Chiefs are approaching $3 million spent across international marketing activities, including efforts in Mexico. Plans for the Frankfurt game include the Chiefs-themed “ChampionShip” docked on the banks of the Main River that the team expects to host more than 5,000 fans throughout the weekend.

Outside of the Jacksonville Jaguars — who have played in London every season since 2013 (outside of the pandemic-hit 2020 season) — NFL teams have not yet shown a strong desire to take up regular residence abroad. The Chiefs could buck that trend.

German Fever

Under the current 17-game scheduling system, the NFL selects teams from the conference with a ninth regular-season home game to host international games, making 2025 the next opportunity for the Chiefs to play in Germany as the home team.

“Every year we’re eligible, we’re going to be raising our hand to play,” Donovan said. “It just makes too much business sense for us.” 

The Chiefs won’t take in any ticket revenue from Sunday’s game — international gates are split among the entire league — but the team has crafted six major sponsorships with big brands like Burger King Germany and broadcaster RTL. The Chiefs have even been consulting with a group of CEOs from German companies over the past two years to learn how to best capitalize on local consumers.

After this season’s Frankfurt games, the Falcons and Panthers will be the only NFL teams with German marketing rights who haven’t yet hosted games in the country. Both teams will host the Chiefs in 2024, but Donovan doesn’t expect them to be interested in taking that matchup to Germany. 

“Because of the demand for tickets to games that we play in right now, that’s not a real good business decision,” he said.

Worldwide Ambitions

The NFL’s success in Germany shouldn’t be too surprising. During the height of the NFL Europe League in the 1990s and early 2000s, games in Germany regularly drew 50,000-plus fans. 

But other countries were slower to pick up on America’s favorite sport. “We had so many issues with just the lack of understanding of American football,” Andrew Brandt, the first general manager of the Barcelona Dragons, told FOS.

The developmental league existed from 1991 to 2007, and was also known as the World League of American Football, the World League, and NFL Europa. But by the end, the league was reportedly losing $30 million annually. The challenge, according to Brandt, was finding a balance of developing talent — Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri were two of the league’s biggest success stories — and actually making money.

NFL owners ultimately decided to fold the league and instead begin playing games in London — the first of which occurred in 2007. Sixteen years later, the NFL is making it publicly clearer than ever that further international expansion is its next big goal.

On opening night of this season, commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wanted to host more games abroad and was looking “around the world.” The two German games and three London matchups make for five games outside the U.S. in 2023.

The NFL extended its partnership with Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to host multiple games a season, and Goodell even broached the idea of a London Super Bowl. Furthermore, NFL executive vice president Peter O’Reilly announced the league was exploring Spain and Brazil as additional markets for games, as well as the possibility of Australia.

Planting Roots?

As the NFL looks for its next stomping grounds, one former executive is particularly bullish on the league’s potential.

Oliver Luck, president of NFL Europe from 1996-2000 after initially helping launch the Frankfurt Galaxy, believes the NFL could thrive in any major European city.  

“I think there would be a very similar effect, quick sellout, with more interest than I even realized,” Luck said, citing Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, and Lyon as potential options. Brandt agrees that one-off NFL games can “work pretty much anywhere.” 

But is there enough momentum for a permanent franchise in Europe, or even a division? “I don’t know if we’ll ever get there,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt remarked ahead of the Frankfurt game.

Donovan believes there needs to be even more international success to justify permanent residence. “I think you’re going to see a lot more push to have more games played internationally and really expand the number of games and the number of markets, before you’re going to see real, serious discussion about a team or a division,” he said.

Brandt says that could play out as an eight-game “home” schedule in a city like London, in which every team could play there every other season. “I still don’t believe we’re going to have a team in London anytime soon,” he said.

Anything Is Possible

In September, Goodell wouldn’t shut down the idea of a European team, but admitted competitive balance was a concern.

“Logistics can always be solved,” Luck said on the matter. “I don’t think that there are any — what I would call physical or logistical — reasons why there couldn’t be a team or an entire division in Europe.”

Either way, the NFL still has plenty of runway for international growth, Luck says, and doesn’t expect any fatigue from European fans.

The NFL hasn’t announced its slate of international games for 2024, but based on this season’s success and comments from league executives, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an increase from this season’s five matchups. The question will be which new markets the NFL enters next.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Sham Gods: The Rapidly Growing World of Sports Impersonators on X

Fake Schefters and Wojs, fabricated trade demands, and borrowed profile pictures.
Sep 24, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of the Oakland Athletics dugout after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Murky Future: Everything You Need to Know About the A’s Move to Las Vegas

Breaking down one of the most drawn-out, multifaceted sagas in sports.
Superdome Super Bowl

Superdome Renovations to Finish in Time for Super Bowl LIX

Renovations will total $500 million and have been ongoing for years.
Michigan defensive lineman Kenneth Grant celebrates a sack on Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the second quarter during the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Pay-for-Play Is Here: Federal Judge Says NCAA Cannot Enforce Any NIL Rules

The ruling effectively allows pay-for-play to go forward uninhibited.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

How the Negro Leagues Are Staying in the Game

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Sabrina-Steph Wasn’t the ‘Battle of the Sexes’—But It Was Part of the Bigger War

The competition could play a factor in increasing the WNBA’s media value.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23), in a Star Wars rebel alliance X-wing fighter pilot-inspired race suit, motions to the crowd to get louder during the driver introductions for the Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale on Nov. 5, 2023.
February 17, 2024

Celebrity Owners, International Ambitions, and $7B Media Deals: Welcome to the New NASCAR

NASCAR boldly keeps pace with the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment world.
February 16, 2024

Wilson Introduced an Airless Basketball for $2,500. We Had Questions

The black, 3D-printed ball appeared in last year’s Slam Dunk Contest.
Emily Henegar, a baker and content creator, made a batch of NFL-inspired cookies featuring Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
February 11, 2024

The ‘Life-Changing’ Economy of Taylor Swift’s NFL Outfits

Appearing in Swift’s game-day wardrobe has been “life-changing” for small businesses.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Finance Manager
FanDuel
New York, NY
Senior Technical Artist - Sports Technology
EA Sports
Orlando, FL
Assistant Manager, Affiliate Operations
Adidas
Portland, OR
NFL salary cap

NFL Salary Cap Sees Historic Spike Ahead of 2024 Season

Each franchise was allotted $255.4M, which is a $30M increase for each team.
MLB Arizona
February 22, 2024

MLB Seeks Minimum Wage Exemption in Arizona

The system is for minor league players due to a previously agreed-on labor agreement.
February 23, 2024

Despite Nike’s Efforts, MLB Uniform Controversy Isn’t Looking Good

Manufacturer touts product benefits but ignores complaints of see-through fabric.
Sponsored

Live Sports Are Now High-Tech Experiences

Oracle is leading the technology revolution happening in stadiums across the world.
February 22, 2024

MLB Uniform Furor: Lighter, More Flexible … and See-Through

See-through uniform pants create a social media stir, extending blowback on the new design.
February 21, 2024

‘Gotta Get in First’: For LIV Golfers, a New Path to the Green Jacket

Augusta National extended special invitations to three international golfers.
February 21, 2024

Messi Returns to MLS With the Weight of the League on His Shoulders

Inter Miami kicks off the MLS season against Real Salt Lake.
February 20, 2024

Pundits Bashed a 397-Point NBA All-Star Game—But Fans Still Watched

Silver struggles to conceal his frustration with the game’s lack of competitiveness.