The NFL has unveiled its 2015 "International Series"—three games to be played in London's Wembley Stadium, three teams forfeiting the competitive and financial advantage of a home game. Why on earth would anyone want to be the "home" team in London? Here's the really simple answer:
The rule change was voted on by owners last month, and provides a five-year window, so a team that hosts a London game in 2015 will be eligible to win a Super Bowl bid any time through 2010.
The three games next year will be Jets at Dolphins in Week 4; Bills at Jaguars in Week 7; and Lions at Chiefs in Week 8. While the Jaguars are contractually obligated to host a London game every year through 2016, the Dolphins and Chiefs—both competitive teams that draw well and are secure in their markets—have no reason to forfeit a home game to assist in the NFL's London schemes.
We already know how keen each team is on hosting a Super Bowl. The Dolphins have been agitating for stadium renovations for years, as Roger Goodell said they were necessary if Sun Life Stadium wanted to host another Super Bowl. Owner Stephen Ross, after being spited in his quest to have the whole thing publicly funded, finally agreed to pay for a majority of the upgrades himself.
In 2006, the NFL played the same game with the Chiefs, guaranteeing them the 2015 Super Bowl if taxpayers voted to fund a retractable roof at Arrowhead Stadium. Voters said no. But after the success of last year's cold-weather Super Bowl, Kansas City sprung into action again, building a task force to land the Super Bowl. Step one, thanks to the owners' vote last month, was to play a home game in London.
None of which changes the fact that these teams are giving up home games—in the Dolphins' case, one against a divisional rival. The Herald's Armando Salguero quotes an NFL source as saying, "What it looks like to me is you have a team that'd rather be hosting Super Bowls than playing in Super Bowls."
Chiefs fans are pissed too. Even as one local official says the move "is a good omen" for hosting a future Super Bowl, team president Mark Donovan tried to claim that this is only about showcasing the brand internationally. But it's going to be an expensive sacrifice:
On how this benefits Chiefs fans, who seem mostly upset at the loss of a home game: "I completely understand that and I appreciate that. We knew there would be and there should be fans who are upset about giving up a home game ... The thought of giving up a conference game or a division game, we were pretty adamant that wasn't going to happen. When you look at our schedule next year, we said, 'No, we're not giving that game up.' ... It's a tougher discussion to have with a fan [about] today and next season and what this means today. This is a long-term prospect, a long-term benefit for the league but selfishly it's a long-term benefit for the Kansas City Chiefs ... The opportunity to be on this stage is valuable."
On the loss of a competitive advantage against the Lions by not playing the game at Arrowhead: "I wish we could play every game at Arrowhead ... But there's a couple of guys in that building [motioning toward the coaching offices] who have a pretty good record on the road as well at home. That factors into it."
On whether the Chiefs will be compensated by the NFL for the revenue they will lose by not playing the game at Arrowhead: "Without getting into all the details, the league obviously makes sure that both teams are compensated for going, in terms of not losing out ... This is going to cost the Chiefs money. It is. It's too big of an opportunity to not take advantage of it. Now we hope that's an investment that will return. This is going to be significantly expensive. It's going to cost the Chiefs money to go. I'm not going to quote you a number."
There's a lot of hemming and hawing in Donovan's comments—he never flat-out says if the Chiefs volunteered for this or had it thrust upon them—but I think a more telling quote comes Lions president Tom Lewand, who will see a road game turn into a neutral-site game. Said Lewand: "It's also an opportunity for us. We would not have given up a home game in Detroit."
So! Sort of shitty to be a Dolphins or Chiefs fan. At least your cities now have a chance to host Super Bowls—not that you'll want to or be able to attend those anyway.