July 7, 2022

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NFL plan to expand overseas involves flag football at the Olympics

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A general view during the NFL London 2021 match between Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 17, 2021 in London, England.

Alex Pantling | Getty Images

The NFL says it has a plan to grow its international business to $1 billion annually and attract its next set of fans.

But the league has some work to do first. And it involves flag football.

“Over the next five years, we want to expand NFL flag football,” said Damani Leech, chief operating officer of NFL International.

In an interview with CNBC at the NFL’s annual meetings this past week, Leech discussed the next phase of NFL expansion overseas. He said that in the next 10 years, the NFL projects it will attract 50 million consumers internationally. That would add to its 180 million consumers domestically and over 150 million international fans who already consume the most popular U.S. sport.

“That’s our big number that we’re focused on,” Leech said.

Here’s a look inside the NFL’s 10-year international plan.

NFL needs flag football in the Olympics

“We’ve got to make the game matter,” Leech said when discussing the importance of expanding the sport overseas.  

And to do that, the NFL needs the Olympics.

The league is pushing for flag football to be included in the Summer Games. Flag football resembles gridiron football, except there is no tackling, and pads and helmets aren’t necessary for participation.

“If flag football becomes an Olympic sport, more countries will invest in playing that sport,” Leech said.

It wouldn’t be the first time football aimed for Olympic inclusion.

American football was included in the 1932 Olympic Games as a demonstration sport. Since then, it hasn’t been recognized. In 1996, apparel company Reebok lobbied unsuccessfully for gridiron football to re-enter the Olympics landscape with a commercial featuring Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.

But the International Olympic Committee did recognize the International Federation of American Football as a…

2022-04-03 08:00:01

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