Friday, January 20, 2012

NFL London: God Save the Rams?

The Beatles. Winston Churchill. The Sex Pistols. Elizabeth Hurley. Big Ben. Jack the Ripper. Parliament. Fish and chips. The St. Louis Rams?

England has had their taste of American football from the games that have been hosted in London since 2007 and also the failed NFL Europe experiment, as well as the nine games played in England from the late 80s to the 90s.

But no matter how clear it is that Europeans generally hate American football, it doesn't stop commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL from trying to shove it down their throats.

As most Rams fans know by now, the Rams are set to play in the NFL's annual London game not only next season, but for the next three seasons.

This, of course, comes at the cost of screwing season-ticket holders out of one of their games every year, which makes this whole ordeal a very bold public relations move considering the franchise has won only 15 games over the last five years.

If it weren't for the hiring of head coach Jeff Fisher, it would almost seem as though the Rams organization is going to great lengths to raise a middle-finger towards a St. Louis fanbase that has provided a reasonable amount of support despite a consistently poor product.

The Rams are frequently mentioned as a possible candidate to move to Los Angeles, but rather than shutting down the rumors, the Rams' billionaire owner Stan Kroenke would rather use the rumors as a tool to leverage a recession-stricken city into meeting his demands.

The Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC), the group that manages the Edward Jones Dome, is currently doing battle with Kroenke in an attempt to hammer out a new agreement that will keep the Rams in St. Louis before the lease expires after the 2014 season.

After 2014, if no agreement is made, then the Rams' lease will be on a year-to-year basis and the team will be free to leave St. Louis at anytime. (More on the stadium issues can be found here)

Perhaps, Kroenke is using London as a tool in order to show the committee that the Rams can survive outside of St. Louis and that they indeed have other options.

Or maybe, just maybe, the city of St. Louis is overly paranoid after losing the football Cardinals and they are panicked over something that could actually benefit the franchise in the long-run.

Well, Kevin Demoff (Vice President of Football Operations) certainly seems to think so. Here are some quotes from Demoff from his live chat with fans on Friday from

I realize people think I'm being disingenuous when I say this is a good thing for St. Louis, but here is why I think that: 1. The league is placing its faith in the St. Louis Rams and now has a vested interest in our success. That means potentially a better schedule, a possible primetime game, things like that. 2. This is a unique opportunity to showcase St. Louis globally and especially in the UK. For multinational businesses like AB, Monsanto, Enterprise, Emerson, Purina, etc, this provides a platform that combines their local roots with international reach. 3. The bigger we can make our brand nationally and globally, the bigger it makes our "effective market size". If you look at Buffalo playing yearly in Toronto, they are applying the same concept to grow their fan base while still being a regional and local team.

So the games will help the Rams gain good graces in the eyes of the NFL and could possibly increase their fanbase, but what good does it do specifically for the city of St. Louis and the fans? Here is another quote that brushes up on that:

Growing our fan base globally allows for revenue streams beyond St. Louis that reduce the pressure on St. Louis to deliver those revenue streams. Additionally, the larger the global brand, the more the TV networks and advertisers see our Club as one they want to work with and the better that is for our visibility.

So, the paranoid claim that this a possible sign of the Rams moving to England, when in reality these games can potentially support St. Louis' ultimate goal—to keep their football team from moving.

In Conclusion

While this is surely hard for season-ticket holders to swallow at first, there is some truth in Demoff's words when discussing the positives of the situation.

For a while now, the bad news Rams have lived under the shadow of their overachieving brother at Busch Stadium. The Rams franchise has struggled to increase it's overall status to an elite level.

There are two ways to achieve the national recognition that the St. Louis Cardinals have:

One way is to win hundreds of games and multiple championships over a period of several decades. However, the Rams are really bad at winning games and it's doubtful that the average fan has the patience to wait 20 years before the team gains national respect.

The alternative, however, is to build the team's image through smart marketing techniques, such as introducing the brand on an international stage, or by shoving the team into the faces of America by occupying high-profile games, such as the annual game in London.

The Detroit Lions have played the Thanksgiving game since the beginning of time. Once a year, people are talking about the Detroit Lions all across the nation. They may be talking about how they don't deserve the Thanksgiving game, but the team is being discussed nonetheless.

So why should you, as a St. Louis Rams fan, care whether or not the team has national recognition?

Well, because elite franchises are closely tied to their cities, which makes it highly unlikely that the team will relocate. Ever.

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