NFL to open office in Sydney as top US sport moves to capitalise on popularity in Australia

NFL officials have ramped up plans to grow the giant US sport in Australia and target players, while a bid to bring last season’s Super Bowl champions to Sydney is gathering momentum.

The NFL is coming – and all Australian winter sporting codes should be concerned.

In a move which will surprise the NRL, AFL and Rugby Australia, four high-ranking NFL officials flew to Sydney last week to reveal plans about growing the giant US sport internationally while targeting Australian footy players and those throughout the Pacific.

It comes as speculation mounts over moves to play a historic NFL match in Sydney — featuring reigning Super Bowl champions, LA Rams — in 2024.

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While in Australia, the NFL officials held top-level discussions with Venues NSW and Destinations NSW while being given tours of Accor Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park and the rebuilt $900m Sydney Football Stadium at Moore Park.

And proving they want a piece of the Australian sporting market, the NFL has decided to establish an office in Sydney which is expected to open in October.

Super Bowl champions LA Rams could play a match in Sydney in 2024. Picture: Frederic J. Brown/AFP
Super Bowl champions LA Rams could play a match in Sydney in 2024. Picture: Frederic J. Brown/AFP

NFL management want a deep and concerted push into Australia with NSW Minister for Tourism and Sport, Stuart Ayres, saying he would “welcome the NFL to Sydney with open arms”.

US scouts will be closely watching the athleticism and ability of players in rugby league, rugby union and Australian Rules with the NFL also wanting to be close to the Pacific nations and their powerful athletes.

Talk of an official NFL match coming to Australia – possibly in August, 2024 — continues to gain traction.

“We would welcome the NFL to Sydney with open arms if they are interested in bringing a match here,” Ayres said.

“We want Sydney to be the events capital of the Asia Pacific and we are always looking to host the very best events and sporting fixtures in our world class stadium infrastructure.”

While the match is yet to be confirmed by Government authorities, the Rams have clearly stated they want to play a game in Australia.

Others in high places are adamant the NFL will come to Australia but it would be pre or post-season exhibition match. The NFL has granted the Rams access to three International Homes Marketing Areas – Australia, China and Mexico.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Sport, Stuart Ayres, would welcome the NFL to Sydney with open arms. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian Gilles
NSW Minister for Tourism and Sport, Stuart Ayres, would welcome the NFL to Sydney with open arms. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian Gilles

Venues NSW chairman Tony Shepherd attended this year’s Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, and spoke with NFL officials about the possibility of taking a match to Australia.

There were also suggestions the two teams – an opponent for the Rams remains unclear — could complete promotional and coaching clinics on the Gold Coast before the big game in Sydney.

A game could be played a week before the season-proper kicks-off, allowing jet-lagged players a fortnight to recover before playing a round two game.

If an NFL match was to happen, it would be played at either at the 82,000-capacity Accor Stadium or the 45,000-seat Allianz Stadium.

NFL interest in Australia is soaring on the back of former Sydney rugby league giant, Jordan Mailata, who earned a contract extension at the Philadelphia Eagles last year worth a stunning $88m over four seasons.

“Australia is on the NFL’s radar,” said former NFL star, Colin Scotts. “There is massive potential to bring an NRL game out here or even a Pro Bowl. I’d even go one step further and say we should set up a team down here.

“There has previously been a revolution in the NFL for Australian punters and now it will be for NRL players and their athletic ability. And why wouldn’t guys look at $100m contracts like Jordan Mailata?”

Bringing an NFL game to Sydney would be an incredibly expensive exercise. Sources claim the NFL was offered $10m to bring a game to Australia several years ago but the figure was deemed insufficient.

The landscape has changed however with the NFL now wanting to take more games overseas. Ten NFL teams will play matches this coming season outside of America.

Former rugby league player Jordan Mailata plays for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. Picture: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Former rugby league player Jordan Mailata plays for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. Picture: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In February, Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff said he would “love” to bring a game to Australia.

“When the NFL decided we had a chance to start to look and expand our presence into international markets, we were really excited about the possibility of Australia,” Demoff told ESPN.

“I think when you look at the history of punters, kickers and now Jordan Mailata, it is a football-rich country. A chance to go invest in that is just a natural fit for us.”

“You look at how passionate people are about sports in Australia and it’s that kind of passion that we see this week with the Super Bowl. That’s what we want to tap into, to really make this partnership work.”

Originally published as NFL to open office in Sydney as top US sport moves to capitalise on popularity in Australia

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