Chiefs Set to Conquer Europe?

Rumors started floating yesterday after a YouTube video featuring Chiefs rookie corner Joshua Williams suggested that the team would play a game in Germany in 2023. 

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus 

Charles Robinson @CRob5769

Writer – @ChiefsFocus

 


I’m going to start by fully acknowledging the screeching halt that the NFL news cycle has hit. The fact that a YouTube clip featuring a 4th round rookie corner is making this big of a splash in Chiefs Kingdom, you know there is not much else going on. So when Chiefs rookie corner Joshua Williams leaked on a clip yesterday that it appears the Chiefs would be playing a home game in Germany (reported as Frankfort by some outlets) Chiefs twitter exploded. 

 

While I don’t have any insider information on this, I will say it would make much more sense for the Chiefs to play a home game Munich if this is the case. The Chiefs have a partnership with FC Bayern Munich, with whom they recently established an international expansion advisory board including FC Bayern board member Andreas Jung. Although Munich is hosting the Seahawks and Buccaneers this season on November 13, so there is a chance the site could rotate in 2023. 

 

But what does this mean for the Chiefs? The cynical fan will tell you it screws the team out of a home game in the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium and puts them at a disadvantage travelling halfway around the world to play on of the 17 regular season games. While this isn’t completely false, it is certainly an outlook that focuses on the smaller picture in play rather than the big picture. 

 

The NFL announced in December of 2021 that it would be designating International Home Marketing Areas to teams league wide. All 32 NFL teams will play an international game over the course of the next 8 seasons, with the goal that the teams designated to specific countries would play de facto home games in these countries. The assignments are below : 

 

Australia : Rams 

Brazil : Dolphins 

Canada : Vikings, Seahawks 

China : Rams 

Germany : Chiefs, Panthers, Patriots, Buccaneers 

Mexico : Cardinals, Cowboys, Broncos, Texans, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Steelers, 49ers 

Spain : Bears, Dolphins 

United Kingdom : Bears, Jaguars, Dolphins, Vikings, Jets, 49ers 

 

The international expansion is a brilliant play by the league and commissioner Roger Goodell for many reasons. The NFL is king in the US, there is no question about that. But even our neighbors to the north in Canada would prefer a hockey game to a football game. The league has a strong presence in the UK and Mexico, playing games in London since 2007 and contests in Mexico City since 2016, but falls short to other sports – specifically soccer – in those countries. 

 

The remainder of Europe, and the world for that matter? Football is an afterthought. While France is not a part of the league’s International Home Marketing campaign as of yet, my time there in June gave me a strong glimpse into the exposure that the league has in many European markets. 

 

What did the French know about football? Well, to be frank – not much. The only exposure that many of these countries have to professional (American) football is the Super Bowl. In order to watch that, they have to get up in the middle of the night (for example, the game starts at 5:30 PM central in the US – that’s 12:30 AM in France) to even see it. 

 

What do the French know about the NFL? Two things that most Chiefs fans despise. 

 

The New England Patriots. 

 

And Tom Brady. 

 

Cringeworthy, yes. But it makes total sense. Here’s why. When you think of American athletes in team sports who have a massive overseas following, you come back to 3 NBA players – Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. The late former commissioner of the NBA David Stern, widely regarded as the greatest commissioner in professional sports history, began the NBA’s international expansion with modest inroads in the late 1980’s. It began with some games being broadcast overseas on tape delays to make sure they hit viewers eyes in Europe and Asia during times when they were actually in front of their TVs, but the biggest bump came in 1992. 

 

The Dream Team getting into the 1992 Barcelona Olympics behind Stern’s fierce campaign to get professional players into the Olympic games rather than amateurs paved the way for immense expansion into international markets for the NBA. Michael Jordan became an instant international star, paving the way for Kobe after him, and now LeBron. Jordan and LeBron are each worth over $1 billion, and Kobe Bryant’s estate is swiftly approaching that mark. 

 

The expansion also led to a massive international interest in basketball by young people in Europe and Asia. Since the expansion players like Yao Ming, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitski, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Doncic have made massive waves in the league as players. In 2022 there were 11 international players selected in the NBA Draft’s two rounds, and French prospect Victor Wembanyama is the consensus number 1 overall prospect in the 2023 draft class. 

 

The NBA is without a doubt more of a player’s league than the NFL. Will the NFL’s international expansion benefit players the way that the NBA’s has? Not to the same level. 

 

With there being 12 players on NBA rosters compared to 53 on NFL rosters, it’s bound to be less beneficial to the players as a whole than the NBA’s efforts. 

 

But just take the Chiefs as a sample size. If people in Europe are enamored by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots from seeing their style of football, imagine what the response will be from fans in Germany (and across Europe) to seeing a young, charismatic player like Patrick Mahomes do things with a football that they’ve never seen before? They’ll get to watch Travis Kelce do thing they’ve never seen a man standing 6’5” and weighing 260 pounds do before. Chris Jones may be named King of Europe with his physical stature and dominance. 

 

Fans in Australia will see Aaron Donald dominate the line of scrimmage and start the debate on how incredible he would be at rugby. 

 

Brazilian fans will get the opportunity to watch Tyreek Hill blaze across a football field and wonder if Pele could have kept up with him. 

 

Fans in the UK will be able to have one of the more heated debates of them all : who’s more polite and harmless – Ted Lasso, or Kirk Cousins? 

 

The game expanding across the world is a great thing for star players who want to build their brands and their wealth, and a great thing for the game to create a much larger footprint globally than it has ever had. In the next decade, American football will move up the list of favorite sports in these countries, passing sports that currently outpace them like rugby, tennis, cycling, and handball (seriously). 

 

While Roger Goodell and the league have often left teams and fans scratching their heads at the decisions they have passed down, this one does not fall in that category. 

 

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