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The discussion surrounding the NFLs television ratings dip this season has spawned all kinds of theories. Dennis McKinnon Jersey Store . Among them: Has the league reached a plateau among its traditional fan base? After decades of growth, are there simply no more fans left to be captured?Those questions have put the NFLs international expansion into new light. As the league announces its schedule for next seasons London games, its goal is clear and public: Cultivate an international fan base that matches its stateside numbers.Speaking by phone this week, NFL executive vice president for international Mark Waller laid out the framework of a strategic plan that has become a mantra within the league. He hopes to develop a following that makes the NFL at least a top-five sport in five different regions or countries: The United Kingdom, Canada, China, Mexico and Germany.If you can do that, he said, and you measure the number of fans in those countries and add them up, that would give you a fan base that I would argue is the same as what we have in the United States.At the moment, according to Waller, the NFL counts between 180-200 million stateside fans. He estimates the league is about halfway there internationally, bringing its rough worldwide estimate of fans between 270 million and 300 million. Based on those numbers, the NFL is pursuing an audience of some 360-400 million people worldwide -- a big number until you remember that 7.4 billion humans inhabit the planet.New revenue is the obvious endgame, either as a net gain or simply to address a stagnant stateside market. At the moment, though, Wallers efforts are directed at building the structure and base for eventual monetization.To me, its always been a very much fan-driven set of goals, he said. If you build the fan base, everything else will flow out of that.The 2017 season will mark a new step in the International Series with four games in London, up from three in each of the past three years. This seasons games drew 242,373 fans -- including an NFL-record in London of 84,488 for a Week 8 game at Wembley Stadium -- but the league made its most notable progress in the local broadcast market.The BBC airs two NFL-related programs during the season, one on Tuesday nights and one on Saturdays. The latter, according to Waller, has brought the youngest demographic of any show on the network and the second-most ethnically diverse.The data there is good, he said. All the indicators that we have suggests that weve got good growth there and good momentum. Were finding that its real and domestic. Its not U.S. fans going over there for games and its not ex-patriots who are attending. Its very much a true U.K. audience.The NFL is now halfway toward a full regular-season home schedule in London, and there has been discussion about whether a franchise or a virtual franchise is the most likely consummation of its work there. Waller said a franchise is the ideal goal for maximizing interest -- The best expression of fandom is when you have your own team to root for, he said -- but its not clear if NFL owners prefer that direction. A virtual franchise would bring eight regular-season games to London, but spread out among multiple existing stateside franchises.As he works to prepare the market for a theoretical relocation, Waller compares the situation in London to the NFLs two-decade absence from Los Angeles.For 20 years, people talked about there not being an NFL team there, and there was always this speculation as to whether we would be there or not, he said. Ultimately, it happened when two or three owners decided it was time to make it happen.For now, the NFL will focus its efforts on staging recurring games in the five countries we noted earlier. The Week 11 game in Mexico City, a Monday night event between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans played in front of 76,473 fans, was incredibly positive, Waller said. He would like to see a return to Canada; the last game there was in Toronto in 2013. Germany is home to arguably the highest level of domestic leagues outside of the Canadian Football League.The NFL, meanwhile, has pushed back its timetable for staging a game in China because of travel and other logistical reasons. But Waller still thinks it can one day place a one-off game there to boost local interest.One of the things we need to show is that we can become a sustainable part of the sporting calendar in these countries, he said. There was always a sense that we would come into a market, play a preseason game -- a friendly, so to speak -- and then come back a few years later. When you take real regular season games there, you show that you can be part of the sport calendar.There was a time when that type of growth was considered a bonus for the NFL and its revenues. Does this years ratings discussion add a level of urgency to the dynamic? Is international development now a matter of league sustenance? Given weve seen this season, its fair to at least start asking those questions. Bobo Wilson Jersey Store . Pence singled in the winning run with no outs in the ninth inning to give the Giants a 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Cosmo Iacavazzi Jersey Store .S. -- Nikolaj Ehlers registered a hat trick for the third straight game and Jonathan Drouin had a goal and five assists as the Halifax Mooseheads hammered the host Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 10-1 on Tuesday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. . Three came down to the fourth quarter while quarterbacks continued to shine in all four games; so important to the overall quality of the game. Mohammad Amir has signed as overseas player for Essex for the second half of the 2017 season.Amir, the Pakistan left-arm swing bowler, is expected to be available from the end of the Champions Trophy in mid-June. Essex hope he will help them adjust to life in Division One of the County Championship - they were promoted at the end of 2016 - and Amir, who married recently, now has family in the London area.Essex had been in particular need of pace-bowling reinforcements, after the retirements of Graham Napier - their leading wicket-taker in 2016 - and David Masters. The attack is likely to be led by Jamie Porter, 23, who has only played two full seasons of Championship cricket.Chris Silverwood, Essex coach, said: We are thrilled that Mohammad has decided to join us for half of the 2017 campaign. He showed a real desire to be a part of the Club and the faact we have him for two competitions is a real bonus. Cedric Killings Jersey Store. He is still only young but has proved himself at International level already, so it is a real coup to get this signing completed.Amir returned to Test cricket in England earlier this year, having served a five-year suspension for spot-fixing. He took 12 wickets in the series against England, but often bowled better than his final tally suggested, as he confirmed that his lengthy ban had not unduly undermined his potential.I am very excited about becoming part of the Essex family, Amir said. Chris Silverwood and Ronnie Irani have both been very supportive over the summer. Im hoping I can carry on Essexs success this season and achieve more for the club in 2017. ' ' ' 
Max Oct 13 '20
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