The NFL’s Logistics Problem

The NFL’s Logistics Problem

This video was made possible by Skillshare. Learn from over 25,000 classes for free for
two months at No sports league in the world makes more money
than the American National Football League. The NFL earns more yearly revenue than the
English Premier League, the Champions League, Formula One, the Japanese Nippon Professional
Baseball League, and the Kontinental Hockey League combined. It is by far the largest sports league in
the world by revenue. Making up the NFL are 32 football teams each
themselves essentially acting as their own distinct businesses. These teams are spread out all across the
contiguous United States—some only 30 miles or 45 kilometers apart from each other, some
nearly 3,000 miles or 4,500 kilometers apart. Now, American football teams are some of the
largest in sports, both physically and in numbers. They have a roster of 56 players—the majority
of which play in any given game. These players weigh on average about 250 pounds
or 110 kilograms. This team size leads to some particular travel
needs. Players each require a first class seat or,
at the very least, the seat next to them free in economy meaning those 56 players take up
far more than 56 seats. On top of that, a team typically brings more
than 100 support staff and an immense amount of cargo to each away game. With the exception of the largest, most valuable
ones, most other professional sports teams in the US will just fly on chartered narrow-body
aircraft like a320’s, 737’s, or 757’s, but most NFL teams, given their size, require
something larger. NFL teams tend to charter their aircraft from
commercial airlines—American, Delta, United, or Hawaiian Airlines—and they’ll typically
fly something a bit larger than other teams like a 767 or sometimes even a 777, but the
nature of this charter job makes finding a plane to take them particularly difficult. You see, let’s take the example of the New
York Jets’ last game of the 2018 season versus the New England Patriots on December
30th. For this game, they left the day before on
a United Airlines 767-400 at 3:37 pm landing 30 minutes later, at 4:07 pm, in Providence,
Rhode Island. The plane then sat on the ground at Providence
airport for the next 26 hours until the game was over. The following day, the plane took off at 6:30
pm bound for New York. The aircraft’s previous flight had been
to Buenos Aires and its next flight was to London and yet for these 26 hours, United
only made money from the half hour charter flight to and from Providence. It’s easy to understand why this wouldn’t
really be worth it to the airline, but at least the Jets are located next to a United
Airlines hub at Newark airport. Many teams, like the New Orleans Saints, for
example, are not located in a city with any airline hub. That makes finding an airline to take their
charter contract even more difficult. That’s because, for example, when the team
had to travel to Charlotte last season, the 767 that took them had to fly in empty from
Houston, the nearest United hub, then fly to Charlotte, sit on the ground for 33 hours,
fly back to New Orleans, then once again fly empty—this time all the way to New York. All told, for the 2 hours and 51 minutes of
flight time United was paid for, they used this airplane for about 44 hours. Being located away from an airline hub, where
planes are based, means charter flights will almost always require a plane flying in empty. It is for this reason that airlines are raising
rates or just flat-out stopping flying NFL teams as they find normal, commercial flying
a more lucrative use of their aircraft. American Airlines, in recent years, for example,
dropped all the many teams they previously flew except for the Carolina Falcons, the
Dallas Cowboys, and the Philadelphia Eagles—three teams located at their hub airports. More teams have moved their contract to dedicated
charter companies such as Atlas Air or Miami Air International, while the New England Patriots
even bought their own set of planes to solve this issue. Some other teams still have contracts with
commercial airlines but have switched to flying multiple smaller planes as these can be in
less demand. The Indianapolis Colts, for example, now typically
travel in two Delta 757’s leaving within a half hour of each other. Other American sports, such as Hockey, Baseball,
and Basketball, don’t have nearly as much of a problem because they play far more games
a season, which makes their contract a more attractive one to the airlines, and they also
typically use smaller aircraft of which there are more available. The NFL briefly considered investing in its
own fleet of aircraft or at least negotiating a deal with an airline in bulk, like the NBA
does with Delta, but for now, NFL teams are seeing their travel costs skyrocket as the
laws of supply and demand take hold. After losing their contract with American
Airlines, for example, the Jacksonville Jaguars saw their travel costs double to $4 million
a year as they chartered an Atlas Air 747 and remember, those $4 million pay for the
travel costs to a mere eight away games. But the NFL’s most daunting logistics problem
is not this. Their most daunting logistics problem relates
to the NFL’s other big problem—expansion. You see, part of the reason the NFL is the
most valuable sports league in the world is because of how saturated the football market
is in the US. 57% of Americans identify as NFL fans. That’s an amazing level of market saturation
for what is, at its core, a business, but that also presents a problem because, with
such a high proportion of the population already fans, it’s quite difficult for the NFL to
expand their audience, at least within the US. In the past decade or so, the league has turned
its attention internationally. The NFL now plays regular season games in
Mexico City and London. These cities don’t have home teams but rather,
two teams from the US will come out and play. For the most part, these international games
are about promoting the sport in these two countries which already have significant fanbases
watching the sport on TV. There’s never been more than one game a
season in Mexico City but in London, in the 2019 season, they’re playing four regular
season games. With the 16 regular-season games per team
per year, any other city that has a resident NFL team typically only has eight home games
meaning London’s quantity is really not that far off. What’s more, the Jacksonville Jaguars are
designated as a sort of home team for London and therefore play at least one of their games
there each year in an attempt to give the city and country a clear team to root for. The league has even said that it plans to
eventually have a full eight games per season in London—the same as any home city in the
US. The reason there are now so many NFL games
in London is because the sport of American football has gained significant inroads in
the UK audience. The NFL estimates that it has 13 million fans
in the UK, 4 million of which watch regularly, and 47,000 of which buy games to every single
NFL game in the UK. Its dedication to the UK has become so significant
that it contributed $12.5 million to the construction of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north
London. This recently opened stadium was built to
become the home of the NFL in the UK. It has a permanent synthetic American football
pitch under its grass soccer field; purpose built, NFL-sized locker rooms; and a media
suite built to the preferences of NFL press. In the coming years, at least two NFL games
will occur each year at this stadium. Now, the logistics of these international
games in London are formidable. When the Seahawks played in London in 2018,
they had to ship 1,150 rolls of athletic tape, about 4,000 pounds or 1,800 kilograms of medical
supplies, 350 power adapters, 500 shoes, 240 pairs of socks, and tens of thousands of other
pounds of equipment to the city weeks ahead of their arrival. Months before, they had to arrange for many
of their players, who had never left the US, to get passports. The team’s trainers had to carefully schedule
their players sleep in the week leading up to reduce jet-lag. There’s even a hotel in Watford with a purpose
built American football practice pitch that the teams typically stay in. While these London matches come at great difficulty
and force teams to sacrifice a coveted home game, the teams and their owners seem to tolerate
them given their infrequency and the promise of the UK market. But the promise of the UK market could push
the NFL to stretch beyond eight international series games a year there. You see, there is some very real, very serious
discussion of putting a National Football League team in London. There is little doubt that the city and country
could support a team in terms of fanbase. The issue, according to the league’s commissioner,
would be having one solitary team stationed more than 3,000 miles or 5,000 kilometers
away from the next. It would be an immense logistics problem considering
that, for the weekly games, teams would have to take flights as long as eleven hours crossing
up to eight timezones. On the flip side, this London NFL team would
have to travel continuously throughout the US for weeks at a time since, practically,
it wouldn’t make sense for them to return to London between the weekly games. This would come at enormous expense, would
likely impact their performance, and prove unpopular with their players. In addition, as the UK does not yet have significant
American football talent, the majority of this teams players would come from the US
and would need to be persuaded, either monetarily or otherwise, to live outside their home country. Those are just some of the cost problems. Beyond that, it is not cheap to fly a whole
NFL team over the Atlantic every week. For the international series games, teams
were flown on chartered Virgin Atlantic 747 or a330’s arranged by the league, but if
London had a fully fledged NFL team, it would likely be treated just like any other team
meaning both them and their American competitors would have to arrange their own flights. The wide-body planes teams would have to charter
to cross the Atlantic come at a cost of up to $50,000 per flight hour. That means that transatlantic travel costs,
just in terms of the flight, would be anywhere between $650,000 for an east coast team or
up to a full $1 million for west coast teams. Teams also tend to carry tens of thousands
of pounds of cargo to each away game which would further escalate the cost. While such an expense would be little issue
for large, wealthy teams like the Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots, teams with smaller
budgets like the Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns would certainly have more of an issue
with potentially adding an extra million in travel costs. But this level of team isolation is not unprecedented. Further west, in the middle of the Pacific,
the University of Hawaii has a division one college football team—the Hawaii Rainbow
Warriors. The closest team in their conference is 2,600
miles or 4,200 kilometers away in San Diego. To get there, they take a five hour flight. That’s only an hour or two faster than it
would take a London NFL team to get to its closest competitor—the New England Patriots. While the furthest team in the Rainbow Warrior’s
conference is only a seven or eight hour flight away in Colorado Springs, Colorado, they do
play a number of non-conference games each year which take them all the way to the US
east coast—an up to 10 hour flight away from Honolulu which is almost exactly the
same as the longest required travel time for an NFL team to London. Not only that, but the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
also have to balance their time with class schedules which means that they travel to
their away games far closer to kickoff than NFL teams typically do to London. The Rainbow Warriors regularly rack up more
travel miles than any professional football team. For example, in one particularly grueling
month in 2016, the team started its season with an international match in Sydney, Australia,
then the next weekend played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, then the weekend after that played
in Tucson, Arizona meaning they flew 25,000 miles or 40,000 kilometers in just one month. The Rainbow Warriors also make most of their
trips on commercial flights making their travel even more difficult than that of NFL teams. Now, this does potentially give the team a
more significant home-field advantage since they’re used to playing with jet lag while
their opponents, when they fly to Hawaii, would not be, but it also supports the view
that, logistically, it would be possible to add an NFL team in London. There are even professional sports leagues
that already regularly require travel over similar or greater distances. The Kontinental Hockey League, for example,
has teams spread out all across Asia and Eastern Europe meaning the teams from Beijing, Vladivostok,
Khabarovsk, and Beijing regularly have to travel more than 4,000 miles or 6,500 kilometers
to play the teams from Minsk, Riga, and Helsinki. An even more extreme example would be Super
Rugby which has teams spread out across Japan, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, and New
Zealand. With this, when the Tokyo Sunwolves play the
Buenos Aires Janguares, for example, they have to travel more than 11,000 miles or 18,000
kilometers each way to their match. Part of the NFL’s problem is just the pure
scale of their competitions with many tens of thousands of pounds of equipment and many
hundreds of staff traveling to each game. The problems are surmountable, though, at
a cost but this cost would be partially burdened by every other team in the league. The question is then, given the promise of
adding a whole new country to the league, is the cost worth it. Now, if the NFL expands to London, one of
the first things the new team will need is a logo. Luckily, there’s a class on Skillshare for
that. Professional animator Fraser Davidson, who
actually has done design work for the NFL, teaches this fantastic course which walks
you through the process of creating your own mascot. This is just one of over 25,000 classes on
Skillshare which each teach you something that you can use for your job, for school,
or just for fun. A few more that I would recommend are Storytelling
101, the Productivity Masterclass, and Cinematography Basics, all of which you can download offline
on the iOS or Android apps. You can learn from any of these more than
25,000 classes for free for a month by signing up at and you’ll be supporting
the show while you’re at it.

100 thoughts on “The NFL’s Logistics Problem

  1. What's the problem? A two hour game in 1968 is now a three hour (or longer) game. So, a whole extra hour of commercials. Which pay for the salaries and air travel costs. Those commercials are paid for by fans paying more for the products. Beer, for example. Pickup trucks. Sports cars. Doritos. Fast food. All pay for it.

  2. Men crushing their heads for a total of a few minutes per game. Nope, thanks. Keep your barbarian sports there, we 're good in Europe. Football (the real one) and basketball do the job just fine for most of the Europeans. Plus, we have other sports like handball, Formula1 and many others. THANKS, BUT NO THANKS…

  3. The Japanese Sunwolves are going to be axed from Super Rugby largely due to the logistics/costs of shipping South African and Argentinian teams halfway across the world

  4. As mentioned, jet lag is a big factor. I witness this a lot in the Super Rugby league, where the travelling teams fatigue by the 3rd quarter. Another problem for leagues, located between time zones longer than 8 hours, is that the audience watches a lot of the live nights games in the early mornings where they stay.

  5. Maybe England should start its own football league, sort of like the USA got MLS instead of trying to host an EPL team. Then, the top teams could play against each other in an international tournament every year like the Club World Cup!

  6. But why did they need all that stuff? It's just rugby with armour, seriously take them out of the pads and it's the same, sport, only the Americans will cry foul every 3 seconds because their delicate overpaid skin is being touched. There is only one football, and the whole world calls it football, because the ball is played with feet, imagine that…

  7. Jo, America. No one wants your weird handegg game. The rest of the world plays and enjoys real football, thank you very much.

  8. "While the New England Patriots even bought their own set of planes to solve this issue". Yeah they're called Air Krafts. As expected from the GOAT owner.

  9. To bad sports are no longer about sports any longer and pretty much have become gigantic money-making conglomerates rigged to make money. Including colleges and even some high schools.

  10. As someone from the UK, I've only ever known one person who actually watches NFL week in week out and properly supports a team. NFL will never take off here, football rules the UK.

  11. I used to go to a very posh English boarding school and as a Canadian I was blown away by how popular and fanatical people are about American football, so I assumed it was popular nationwide. Turns out outside my school's community no one cares or watches it.

  12. Two things you didn't mention that makes putting a team in London difficult are taxes and cost of living. Britain has high taxes compared to the US and London is an expensive place to live more less being a tourist. It will be tough getting free agents to go there and living overseas and even in the UK, is not for everyone. I was stationed there with the Air Force and some loved it, like me, and some hated it. I'm sure players will be the same. I don't think giving one team a higher cap will sit well with the rest of the league.

    Also, instead of more games in England, how about Germany? BTW at the end right before NFL Europe was euthanized, 5 out of 6 teams left were in Germany and the other was in the Netherlands.

  13. 6:44 So the NFL is trying to tell us that roughly 1 in 5 British people identify as NFL fans? Anyone who lives here in Britain will know that simply cannot be true.

  14. @7:10, 7:14 I'm pretty sure american football fields look different from british football fields. I think they were playing american football in Jerry Maguire, and the black guy run with a "ball" in his hands towards a giant yellow tuning fork. And in the first Ace Ventura movie, the bad guy was upset because he couldn't hit the tuning fork with the "ball" because of he got lasered out or whatever… the point is: there are no tuning forks in english football.

  15. London already has a NFL team. Peter played on it in Season 4 Episode 20 of the popular American cartoon "Family Guy."

  16. Hey, Los Angeles and New York have two teams a piece. Why not give one of them to the U.K.?

    I personally wouldn't mind seeing the London Chargers.

  17. The players wont like it, there is a lot of travel, ect ect. The NFL could give 2 shits about all of that. If they perceive the money they recieve from expanding will be more than the expenses then the NFL will push for it, and recent history shows that's exactly what they think.

  18. So the Jacksonville Jaguars spent about 2.5% of what they spend on player salaries for travel… man I wish I had those kind of problems and only had to spend 2.5% of my yearly salary getting too and from work.

  19. Most NFL fans view games on television. Broadcast network contracts represent the league's largest and most important source of revenue. The NFL games in London and Mexico City each season are indeed about expansion, but not necessarily NFL franchises expanding and locating in these cities. These games are intended to expand and grow local viewing audiences for future television network and online streaming contract rights, so that the NFL can negotiate lucrative deals in the U.K. and Mexico for insane amounts of money.

  20. Well these teams could make a contract with airliners to help join other leagues and certain customers who pay a lower rate if space is available during airline flights. These customers may be fans who have a chance to interview their role models or get sponsorship's for becoming invoked in the recruitment process by an internship.

  21. The entire world doesn’t give a fuck yank eggball thats don’t even a sport that is adds witch incluide 23 min of game.

  22. The fans have no interest in having the NFL expand to London. Also, why not swallow the Canadian football league (which is similar, but worse in every way)? As a canadian myself I would love to trade the CFL for a small stake in the NFL. Just open an NFL franchise in Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, and watch the CFL close shop.

  23. played only by americans (and some canadiots), LARGEST SPORTS IN THE WORLD BY REVENUE laugh in european football league

  24. "They had to arange for many of their players, who had NEVER left the US, to get passports" 7:49 is in a nutshell why the general population of a supposedly "rich afluent free" nation is so clueless about the outside world and unaware of their general ignorance of anything non USA is so glaring in its idiocy. . .

  25. How do you know what their Charter contracts are? Typically chartered aircraft bill a minimum number of hours per day or the hours flown, whichever is greater. So if their charter agreement is to bill for 4 hours per day minimum then the 30 minute flight would still be billed at the minimum of 4 hours. They're also going to be billed for the ferry reposition legs flown to get the plane from where its based to where the team will be picked up, and where the team will be dropped off to where it is based. All that will be in their charter contract.

    Granted you're still correct that they make more money by doing long haul flights and are not as profitable while the plane is sitting on the ground.

  26. The NFL teams should buy a plane, make the whole plane that teams theme, transport team to the next city, and then immediately return and pick up paying fans and fly back to where team is playing. Team gets added revenue for flying fans, fans support team for away games, fans get direct flights to game.

  27. All this time I was thinking: what a polluting sport, all teams taking airplanes weekly! That’s got to be a significant contributor to climate change!

  28. So the NFL is invading the uk to try and overthrow football(soccer) in this country as the main sport, good luck not going to happen.

  29. Just please don't give us the Cleveland Browns 😉 Joking aside, we would probably need 2 teams in the UK since they insist on wanting one in London as it is too difficult & expensive to get there from the north of the country…

  30. The nfl would really need two teams to make it worth it, then any team could go over and play both before coming back. Sorta like in baseball when the giants and dodgers went out west

  31. I've been reading for awhile about this NFL expansion to London and (thank you, Sam!) this video made me dig into remembering how it'd done. Well…

    The since 2010 owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan, happens to also own the Fulham FC soccer football team of the English Premier League, so he was the one who've taken the steps with the NFL to have games "over there". The rumo(u)r is that the ultimate goal is to move the Jaguars all the way to London in the future.

    No need for a new logo or name, they only need to talk to Rattan Tata to discuss not having to pay for rights to use the name over there… (yes, the car marque)

  32. I think an important distinction to make is that it's the NFL, the NATIONAL Football League, aka, national to the US. I don't think adding London would make sense in that regard. It would become more of an International Football League, which isn't a bad idea.

    In fact, eSports actually has this problem too. They typically have teams coming from several different countries, typically Korea and the US. Instead of every team flying to play each other, they break the competition into sections such as Regional, State / Prefecture, National, and International. This allows more teams to play overall and that transportation is reduced and only focused on the best teams.

    I personally think this brings more hype and attention to the game because these are the best teams IN THE WORLD.

  33. NFL's Logistics Problem, just destroy the egghand already. Or get psychological aid for all them brexit inbreds before this horror spreads.

  34. In the case for adding a UK team, couldn't they just have a few warehouses to house equipment/kits/etc…?

    * One in the UK for ALL competitor teams that fly over
    * One in the US (perhaps even up to three dispersed geographically equally in… say… Texas, Detroit and San Francisco for example) for UK equipment to be dispersed to somewhat nearby areas when they are playing against nearby teams at reduced/local rates?

    And therefore only have to worry about getting people to and from games? Fairly certain the UK has shoe and sock places places, power adaptors and non-perishables that can be sourced locally or at worst, just be shipped in bulk in one to two freight flights, right? The only question is….. what would be cheaper?

    * Fly players AND equipment from London direct to LA or;
    * Fly Players from London direct to LA and separately, Fly/Bus equipment from San Fran to LA

    Only…. and **ONLY**… Wendover can give us the answer to this logistical quandry. Perhaps a trial run with the XFL and see how it goes 🙂

  35. Another concern about expansion is there is no way a team would get created. A team would have to be moved, because of the amount of teams

  36. One of the things not mentioned is the complexity of taxes in regards to the international games. NFL players already have complicated taxes, since they are considered "independent contractors," are paid on a "per-game" basis, and are subject to potential state and local income taxes of whatever city they are playing in that particular week, on top of the normal federal income tax.

    Throwing international games in there, immediately and substantially alters their tax obligations, since they would technically be earning money in a foreign country.

  37. hockey is NOT! American, it is Canadian. I love this channel but please do not call non-American sports american. Also basketball is technically Canadian through the nationality of it's creator and baseball was derived from cricket, a British sport

  38. I think the NFL should buy some cheap land somewhere – I'm thinking maybe Texas panhandle or Oklahoma. They could build a half dozen playing fields and some housing units and move all the teams there. On game days, they would rotate the teams through the playing fields (I'm thinking each field could host 3 or 4 games over the course of a day.)

    The playing fields would be inexpensive to build – just large windowless warehouses with the interior walls painted chroma key green so the televised games could just add in CGI backgrounds with the appropriate city's stadium. If a fan wants to experience being at the game, they could wear a VR headset. A small unit could pump in the smells of stale beer, B.O., and over-utilized urinals – and they could use a delivery service to order $8 beers and a tepid frankfurter that's been soaking in lukewarm hotdog water since early that morning. For an extra touch of realism, they could drive their car a mile from their house and pay $25 dollars to park, then walk back home before donning their VR headset.

    The players, staff and coaches would all live in luxurious housing units located on the same compound. It would greatly reduce the cost of travel for teams, staff and television producers while eliminating annoying game day traffic in host cities.

    And they wouldn't have to build taxpayer funded stadiums that teams declare obsolete after their 8 years old.

    If anyone knows someone in the NFL feel free to share this idea.

  39. Why don't the airlines charge teams for all that downtime? If I wanted to hold a plane for 44 hours, I have a feeling they'd charge me for it. Hell a cab is going to charge you if you ask them to wait.

  40. Quick Question why is the UK the new country there trying to add and not Mexico or Canada? I can see that maybe Mexico isn't a well-off enough country but Canada should be pretty easy to establish a base plus there is already a natural rivalry so would that make more sense for being the first International team in the NFL?

  41. I love how seriously this has been put together. The idea that there is any significant target market for NFL in the UK is laughable. I like to think I’m interested in any sport, but as a Brit even I find American Football uninteresting. I’m sure some NFL games get shown here, but only on obscure cable channels. I’ve a feeling the Superbowl is shown on BBC, but it’s on at daft o’clock in the morning, and goes on for literally hours.

    No doubt there are enough people with money to burn who are willing to pay to see this ‘entertainment’ at Wembley or Tottenham. But that’s because it’s a novelty. National and European US football leagues have been tried in the past, but failed. I suspect a lot of the ‘fans’ paying to see NFL in London are US expats pining for the national sport. The funniest part of this video was the idea that Jacksonville Jaguars might become the ‘local’ team in London. Perhaps – but you’ll need to rename them. My guess is, if you ask a Londoner where Jacksonville is, they’ll assume it’s where ‘whacko’ is from!

    The odd thing is, I think there is market for ‘American’ sports that are low-key for now and need some investment to promote successfully. Our ice rinks tend to rise and fall with Olympic success in figure skating. That’s at a low point, but if you had a sport with regular usage – hockey – I think they would improve their status. And if you had NHL matches here – the sport could go ballistic. The same with basketball. In the 1970s there was a big interest with the Harlem Globetrotters, but since then it’s become an armchair sport at a serious level.

  42. Maybe a better solution for the NFL and UK would be to create a new four football team division in the UK: Glasgow/Edinburgh, Liverpool/Manchester/Leeds/Sheffield, Bristol/Gloucester/Worcester/Birmingham, and London. I grouped non-London areas, which each sum to over a million people per area, to demonstrate that four teams MAY be profitable, not just relying on London. NFL could have a specific Atlantic crossing fleet of jets or contracts to save money for poorer teams. Maybe even have each UK team play each other 3 times each year instead of 2 to reduce cross Atlantic trips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *