Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Europa Folds after 16 Seasons

The NFL has decided to shut the doors on its struggling European league.

The NFL folded its development league in Europe after 16 years on Friday, calling the decision a sound business move that will allow for a stronger international focus on regular-season games outside the United States.

The announcement came less than a week after the Hamburg Sea Devils beat the Frankfurt Galaxy 37-28 in the World Bowl title game in Frankfurt before a crowd of 48,125. Five of the league’s six teams are based in Germany, with the other in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

A statement on the German-language edition of the NFL’s Web site said the NFL decided to concentrate its “strategies and resources” on regular-season games outside the United States in an effort to reach as many people as possible. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thanked the fans for their support but said it was time to develop a new international strategy, terming the move to fold NFL Europa the “best business decision.” The league reportedly was losing about $30 million a season. “From now on we will focus on regular-season games and use new technologies to make NFL more popular worldwide,” he said.

NFL team owners decided in October to play up to two regular-season games outside the United States. The first such game is Oct. 28 in London between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants. The league said it is looking toward other regular-season games in Germany, Mexico and Canada, with Germany a strong candidate for 2008.

This once again demonstrates why the NFL is the best-run sports league. It simply didn’t make sense to continue to lose millions to develop a handful of marginal players. Meanwhile, the NBA continues to poor money into the WNBA.

More background, from Wikipedia:

[I]t was founded in 1991 as the World League of American Football (WLAF) to serve as a type of spring league. In 1995, when the league was revamped after a two-year hiatus, the league was renamed the World League. In 1997, the league rebranded itself as the NFL European League or NFL Europe. After the 2006 season, the league’s name changed again, this time to NFL Europa.

Here are the various logos used over the years:

World League of American Football LogoNFL Europe LogoNFL Europa Logo

Given the proliferation of cable options, NFL Europa had to contend with Arena ball and re-runs of classic NFL games with its stateside audience. Abroad, the sport had to rely on a dwindling population of American soldiers and expats. That’s not much of a business plan.

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