LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Munich during Oktoberfest with the appetizing smell of sausages, sauerkraut and beer as the backdrop?
Rio de Janeiro with its loud, boisterous and always colorful carnival atmosphere or Mexico City amid the lively sounds of mariachi bands and the accompanying chants of exuberant spectators?
Any of these three locations could very well end up playing host to a Super Bowl in years to come if the National Football League’s (NFL) strategy to expand the sport globally continues to gather pace.
Pie in the sky? Many pundits think so, given that the NFL will remain King of the Hill in the United States for the foreseeable future where its television ratings are richly prized. The league’s impact elsewhere is still open to debate.
Furthermore, for a Super Bowl to be staged away from American soil, the hosting city would need to have an NFL franchise already based there, and that scenario does not apply at the moment.
“While a non-U.S. staged Super Bowl is not out of the question, I can’t see it happening within the next 15-20 years at least,” Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, told Reuters.
“Imagine a UEFA Champions League final in New York or Los Angeles, that’s about an equal scenario. American football is simply too “American” for its most important game to be played anywhere but in America.”
For Daniel Durbin, director of the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society, the lure of future Super Bowls is an increasingly significant factor for potential hosting cities in the United States.
“One of the big selling points for U.S. cities to put millions, even billions, of dollars into a new stadium for their football team is that the stadium would open up the possibility of putting the Super Bowl in their town,” Durbin told Reuters.
“So long as there are stadiums in the U.S. which are “owed” or expect a Super Bowl, it will be hard to convince everyone to move the Super Bowl out of the country.”
Rick Horrow, the visiting expert on sports business at Harvard Law School, agreed.
“We now have, or will have, a new set of state-of-the-art American facilities in tourist-oriented regions that we didn’t have before — in Miami, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area,” Horrow told Reuters.
“And all of those facilities frankly should command multiple Super Bowls over the next few decades. In addition there are new stadiums opening up in Minnesota, Atlanta and elsewhere, so the market is more crowded.”
Regardless of whether or not a Super Bowl could be hosted on foreign soil, the NFL has been steadily ramping up its expansion of the game to Britain and elsewhere.
In October, NFL owners voted to extend the league’s commitment to play international regular-season games through 2025, including the option to play outside Britain, beginning next season.
That resolution, ratified during a one-day owners’ meeting in New York, broadened a 2011 agreement that permitted the NFL to schedule games at London’s Wembley Stadium through 2016.
The league played only one game at Wembley for six seasons before raising it to two games in 2013 and then to three in 2014 and 2015.
Building on that momentum, British finance minister George Osborne met with NFL team owners, executives and players three months ago to discuss what it would take to encourage a league franchise to base itself in the English capital.
“I want London to be the global sporting capital,” Osborne told reporters at the time. “That’s why I am supporting the NFL to bring one of their 32 teams to London permanently.”
NFL executive vice president Mark Waller has set his sights on establishing a team in London by 2022 while continuing to strengthen the sport’s impact elsewhere.
“The work we’re doing now is to ask, ‘How do we accelerate the agenda in Mexico, Canada and China?’” Waller told the NFL Network. “Those would be our next stage, and we have offices in those three countries.
“After those, where should be our focus? I think we’ve concluded that Brazil and Germany are the next two frontier markets, which is where the Pro Bowl idea comes from.”
The league has considered moving the Pro Bowl, its All-Star game, from Hawaii to Brazil in February 2017.
“There is no reason to believe that Mark Waller and the NFL folks couldn’t find a creative way to bring this economic and social juggernaut, the Super Bowl, across the (Atlantic) for all to see,” said Horrow.
“We certainly understand that the Super Bowl numbers are nowhere near World Cup and Olympics but they are incrementally increasing at a rapid rate in places like the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, South America and other places.
“Yes, I can see that day (when a Super Bowl is played outside the U.S.) but it’s not in my immediate five-year calendar.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue