A Whole New Ball Game: Atlanta Arsenals at Houston Hotspurs

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Some 90 000 fans packed Wembley Stadium today for the first regular season NFL game outside the United States.

The clash fell under the radar of most English football fans. It shouldn’t: not content with buying England’s best clubs, American moguls want their English ‘franchises’ to return the favour and play Premier League matches in the States.

Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke says there is a ‘a good chance’ the U.S. will host a Premiership match ‘’because both (club) owners could agree to it’’ Jonathan Tisch, co-owner of the Giants, is calling for a Premiership match in the Big Apple. And West Ham non-executive chairman Eggert Magnusson, the Icelander who made his millions from tuna fishing, likes the idea too, saying he hopes it will happen ‘’sooner rather than later.’’

If the Americans are willing to play in Europe, why shouldn’t the English play over there?

First, the NFL, unlike the Premiership, is in desperate need of international exposure after the recent collapse of NFL Europe. And for the Giants, a flight to London is only a couple of hours longer than one to, say, California.

American sports owners wrongly believe their franchises can be artificially globalized. So does much of the American media. Take the Houston Chronicle, which reports that the Wembley game ‘indicates a pent-up demand for world-class American football that is heartening to NFL officials envisioning a global league…NFL officials are planning an expansion of the international program, now in its early days.’

The NHL crossed the Atlantic this year, choosing London for a first-ever game on foreign ice (a genuine interest in promoting the sport would have seen the players head to hockey-mad Bratislava or Helsinki). Bemused Brits heard a pre-match rendition of God Save The Queen, quite against British royal protocol.

But what’s a thousand years of tradition in the pursuit of a global sports brand?

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