Will Deflategate Affect the NFL's London Quest?

If people question the league's decision making when it comes to these sorts of issues and their supposedly contradicting punishments, how would they feel about a decision as large as moving one team halfway across the world?

If you are a fan of the NFL then you may have heard of deflategate. You may also be bored of it already.

The act of slightly deflating balls has rocked the NFL world and the New England Patriots who have been heavily fined and stripped of their half of fame quarterback for the first four games of the 2015 season.

The affect around the league has been substantial, for future conduct, possible rule changes and the teams who will now face a Brady-less Patriots in the opening month of the season. However, as someone from the UK, I noticed there is a small chance this could affect the game in Britain.

After the news broke I listened to the Around the NFL podcast for their reaction. The host, Dan Hanzus, made an interesting point that got me thinking about the international series when he mentioned how big a supporter Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been of commissioner Roger Goodell.

It will be interesting to see if this support has wavered after this latest scandal. During the week of building up to the Super Bowl, Kraft had demanded an apology from the league for the way his team had been treated. When the report was released detailing what had (more likely than not) happened the owner stated he would accept the punishment as "knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile." It sounded like a man who had lost some trust in the league.

Now how would this affect the continued growth of American football in the UK? Well firstly we have to look at legacies. A lot has been said about Tom Brady's legacy as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, but what of commissioner Goodell's legacy?

It seems pretty clear that Goodell wants his legacy to be the international expansion of the NFL. Commissioners before him have left the league with their name attached to a major change (Paul Tagliabue's expansion teams and labour deals, Peter Rozelle's merger of the NFL and AFL) and Goodell is in prime position to make the biggest splash in his quest to put his name in the history books.

The International Series at Wembley has been a great success. The games are more often than not sold out and more games are added each year as well as the number of fans and people watching on TV in the UK. In his press conference before the Super Bowl in Arizona, Goodell not only mentioned how well the UK fan base was growing and alluded to the growing potential London has to host an NFL team, but on spreading the game in other areas. A return to Mexico, where the first International Series game was played, was brought up as well as Germany and China. London could be just the beginning.

To do this however he will need not just the support of the fans but owners of the 32 teams. As mentioned earlier Kraft has been a big fan of Goodell and an advocate of international expansion. His Patriots have played at Wembley twice and are the most supported team in the UK, a stat he has often mentioned quite proudly. He has appeared on Sky Sports in the past stating how he thinks London should have a team soon and how important it would be for the league to have one there.

Robert Kraft is an influential figure among the other owners. Deflategate could lead his influence in this department down two paths. Either he could continue to support the league's growth internationally and try to influence others but question marks would be raised considering that his side has now been in trouble not once but twice, after Spygate. Would owners continue to trust an owner whose team has such a track record?

Or the relationship he has with Goodell and the NFL may have soured so much he may question his own support towards the commissioner. If Goodell loses Kraft's influence in the push for a London team, his quest for that legacy defining move may dwindle.

Since he took over as commissioner in 2006 Goodell has done many great things for the league (helping develop player safety springs to mind) but there are some who still questions his approaches. The recent four game suspension for Brady's possible influence in deflating some balls has been compared to similar cases with other teams who have heated the balls or pumped them up over the limited PSI. Add to this the Ray Rice case in which the Baltimore Ravens running back was originally suspended for half the games Brady has been for domestic abuse and Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson who was not suspended then ended up missing the entire 2014 season.

His decision making may be questioned in the future by some owners and fans. There are also fans who are unhappy about his exploits in the UK. Despite the evidence being there that the Brits love their football, some still believe the game should not leave their shores. The fans have also argued that, if their team was to host a game at Wembley, they would lose out on one of eight games a year for them to attend. Out of all the major American sports football has the smallest amount of games therefore it is easy to see why some fans would feel hard done by if their team decides to play one of those games abroad.

If people question the league's decision making when it comes to these sorts of issues and their supposedly contradicting punishments, how would they feel about a decision as large as moving one team halfway across the world?

Of course this is all speculative. What we expect, and hope, is that after Brady walks out to face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, it will be water under the bridge. The Patriots and the other 31 teams will join the NFL and continue to grow the game further abroad and continue its quest to have a London franchise. Let's hope we won't feel the shockwaves from across the pond.


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