On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I had the chance to meet a man involved with the Amsterdam Crusaders Football program. Their professional club next year will compete in the BIG 6, which are the best 6 teams playing American football in Europe. www.big6.eu . I was introduced to Menno Gibson through my good friend and American Legendary High School Football Coach, who should be coaching in the NFL or at least Division 1 NCAA, Jeff (“ All he does is win BIG”) Scurran. Menno is a lifelong teacher and Coach and has devoted his life to helping children around the world. He speaks from the heart and what he does in Football is mostly a gift of his time.
I think the NFL needs to change it’s thinking and opinion of Euro American football for many reasons. The NFL had the right idea with NFL Europe, they just executed it badly, and without understanding/considering what Europeans want out of the game. The NFL did a bad job of listening, not learning and failed to integrate with local talent and create a local message, so they screwed up an amazing opportunity to connect and grow a sport world- wide as well as to create access to a talent pool that is not playing football in the US. That can be corrected. You can’t just drop in to another country and expect your business model to work the same way it does at home. You have to grow it, build it, nurture it and be patient with it.
The premise for playing American Football in Europe should not have been to send Americans over to Europe and to develop american talent for the NFL, while expecting huge crowds to turn out.. It should have been to develop the game in Europe for the specific purpose of building local talent from European Cities, and too integrate some American talent onto the rosters, (maybe those who narrowly missed practice squads). In many ways the professional football game in Europe is similar too the atmosphere of the old days of minor league baseball in the US. The people in the sport are doing it for the love of the sport, most are not getting paid, and the players are generally playing for room and board and the chance to play pro football in Europe, and make some film for the NFL. Make no mistake, there are some very talented young men playing American Football in Europe, the kinds NFL rosters are yearning for and maybe what the NBA already knows.
Football in Europe, like in the US, is played on a NFL regulation field and by the same rules as American football. Some, Cities have football stadiums and others have access to fields with locker Rooms and spectator stands, dedicated to American football, unlike, in Canada where the rules of the game are different and the field dimensions are different. Bigger stadiums draw maybe 7,500 fans to a game , while smaller venues draw 1000- to 1,200. In my opinion, European developed players given the talent, are more likely too transition to the American game, better than one playing in the CFL or Indoor arena football for that matter, which is a very different game. NFL teams know this and most NFL teams currently maintain an International Scout on their staff.
In the beginning, the expectation to draw large crowds for games is silly, the interest level is just building but, unless you have local talent on the field, well everyone doesn’t just want to see some American kids they have never even heard of. They want to see their cousin or their nephew catching passes, or making tackles, or dad coaching on the sidelines. In this matter, it would again be very similar too small minor league baseball being played in BIG cities in Europe, much more fan connected and a unique experience. Or sort of like miniature NFL, at least too start.. Think smaller and more local in order too think Bigger.
The budgets for these teams are comparably very small, but to be fair they should be the same for all of the teams. A rough example, is that one team last year had a major sponsor and comfortable donors yielding them 3 million dollars too spend, while my favorite team had no sponsors and about 30k to spend.
Here is an idea, every 2 NFL teams could support a single NFL Euro Franchise – for which, each team would be able to have 6 players or a total of 12 US born players on the roster each year. Most likely it would be first or second year players who may have been beyond the practice squad, but this way they would have an opportunity to develop on the field, playing the game in an American format against good talent. Far better than working out in a gym on your own and waiting for the phone too ring. The other 35 to 40 roster spots would belong to local European players, I would virtually guaranty you that the league would yield 40 to 50 players for the NFL every year. Especially, if guys like my friend Jeff Scurran are involved.
There is so much more to this than what I am pointing out, so hey Roger Goodell or Troy Vincent or even some major sponsors who want to get in this game, give me a call, American Football in Europe for Europe’s sake, is a brilliant idea and one that is happening with or without you, but could be so much better with you.
I am working on the business plan, so hit me up.
For the good of American Professional Football around the world –