When the news came out, most European NFL fans were inconsolable. Indeed, the league has decided this week that the NFL International Series games scheduled to be played in London and Mexico City in 2020 will be staged in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“After considerable analysis, we believe the decision to play all our games domestically this season is the right one for our players, our clubs, and all our fans in the US, Mexico and UK,” said NFL Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Christopher Halpin in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the support of our governmental and stadium partners in Mexico and the United Kingdom, who all agree with this decision, and we look forward to returning for games in both countries in the 2021 season. We also thank our incredible fans in those territories for their passionate support of the NFL. We will continue to serve them through our outstanding media partners and by being active supporters of both grassroots football and COVID-19 relief efforts in Mexico and the UK.”
Not that it was an unexpected decision, it is a fair one, but the hope of getting back to normal was still there lingering in our minds. And games in London are always a treat for an audience that, not always has the opportunity to go across the ocean to watch an NFL game. The same can be applied to the Mexico City games. Since 2007, the NFL has held at least one regular-season game abroad every year. It is just a beautiful way to expand the fan base around the world.
Rumors were talking about a possible Dolphins-Chiefs game in the UK, so we were prepared to go to war to get tickets, and the Jaguars were also scheduled for consecutive games in London at Wembley Stadium.
COVID has drastically changed 2020, seeing all major sports events being cancelled one by one. However, it looks like the NFL is going the other way, releasing their final schedule on May 9th.
As part of returning to the field in the fall, the NFL plans to implement strict protocols, so it was going to be hard controlling international venues the same way. Some say that the NFL could also take place on Saturdays if College football does not occur…
Of course the fact of taking away one of the few opportunities for true football passion abroad is sad, but it will certainly happen again in 2021. Moreover, safety is much more important now than pure entertainment, so the league has made a good decision which shed a light on what could happen this fall.