The Jacksonville-London Jaguars, Montreal Expos, Mexico City Montañas and Portland Greens might know!
International sports expansion is upon us
The Jaguars got married and took a second last name in London, baseball is back in French-speaking Canada, the Mexico City Montañas fight high altitude baseballs, but not in the Rockies, and the Portland Greens have beer and “going green” night. Despite this author making up those team names, they might be the headlines on your favorite sports website come 2019 and beyond.
The NFL’s Jacksonville Jaquars owner Shahid Khan recently placed a bid for Wembley Stadium in London for $1 billion. He wants to host the Super Bowl and the World Cup at the stadium. Khan also owns Fulham F.C. in London, part of the English Premier League.
The MLB’s Boston Red Sox owner John Henry also owns Liverpool F.C. of the English Premier League.
The NFL’s Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke also owns Arsenal F.C. of the English Premier League.
The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers owners Avie, Bryan, and Joel Glazer also own Manchester United of the English Premier League.
One only need to look at the lists of America’s Richest Sports Team Owners 2017 and The World’s Richest Sports Team Owners 2018 via Forbes to see that sports team owners have money and that money is based both here in the United States and abroad.
What does this mean for the future of sports in America? It means that the move to go international is upon us. Over the past five to ten years, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League have all had teams in their leagues play in games overseas. The matches have been preseason games for the NBA, but the NFL and the MLB have played both preseason and in-season games in foreign markets. The NFL has played in London (the Jaquars multiple times), while MLB teams have played in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monterrey, Mexico, Sydney, Australia, and Tokyo, Japan. The MLB also has the World Baseball Classic, now in preparation for its fifth iteration in 2022.
If money is a driving factor in moving sports overseas, the Indian Premier League (cricket) currently has the eighth largest sports television broadcast deal in the world, worth more in dollars than the National Hockey League at $510 million annually. The deal is actual more valuable than stated because its term is for more dollars over a shorter period of time (2018-2022) versus other major sports that generally go 6-10 years in length. This shorter window allows the IPL to exploit their rights again as a free agent would when hitting the open market. One thing to note, broadcast rights always go up, never down.
If viewers are a driving factor, despite having the largest sports television deals and valuable sports franchises, more people reside outside of the United States and the United Kingdom than do in it. These are markets full of anxious fans possibly waiting for content to reach them. For example, 2.7 billion people live in India and China alone, versus the 391 million people living in the USA and the UK. The distribution channels are already here, will your international city be the next to host a sports franchise? It is possible that expansion into Canada, Mexico, and the other parts of the United States are likely.