NFL wants to play games in Canada and Vancouver makes the most sense

Jan 12 2023, 1:02 am

Is Vancouver in the running to host an NFL regular season game at BC Place?

When the NFL expanded its regular season schedule from 16 to 17 games for each of the league’s 32 teams, it committed to growing the game internationally.

And yes, that included Canada.

“The new schedule ensures that, beginning in 2022, all 32 clubs will play internationally at least once every eight years,” the NFL said in a March 2021 press release. “The scheduling of up to four neutral site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America, and the United Kingdom. Clubs can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally, as is currently the case.”

Since the announcement, the NFL has followed through with games in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Mexico, but has yet to play in Canada or South America.

Five NFL games were played outside the United States in 2022: three in London, one in Munich, and one in Mexico City. The league also staged a pair of games in London in 2021.

If Canada is indeed a “focus” of the NFL, as it claimed, then the time could be right for a game north of the border in the near future.

The NFL is looking at hosting two games in Germany next season, but won’t be scheduling any in Mexico due to stadium renovations, according to The Athletic.

If you’re looking for a stadium in Canada to host games, BC Place is clearly the best option. Renovated in 2011, BC Place offers the highest-quality stadium in the country, as well as a seating capacity of 54,500.

Two venues in Canada can offer slightly larger capacities, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton and Olympic Stadium in Montreal, but they’re not as well regarded as BC Place.

Rogers Centre in Toronto has traditionally held over 53,000 fans for football. But the stadium is undergoing major renovations, with the goal of turning it into more of a baseball-specific ballpark.

There are new outdoor stadiums in Regina (2016), Hamilton (2014), and Winnipeg (2013), with the ability to expand seating capacities. But are those cities that the NFL wants to visit to showcase regular season games? The NFL also might not be keen to host games north of the border in cold weather, meaning outdoor games would need to be scheduled during the CFL season — something the Roughriders, Ticats, and Blue Bombers likely wouldn’t be thrilled with.

BC Place could safely host games indoors after the conclusion of the CFL season in November. Toronto didn’t have much success hosting Buffalo Bills games between 2008 and 2013 though, so perhaps that works against Canada’s largest city.

Vancouver has hosted the NFL once before, for a preseason game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, at BC Place in 1998.

There haven’t been official conversations about next steps, Sport Hosting Vancouver spokesperson Michelle Collens told Daily Hive, but she says her organization is interested in opportunities to host more international events in Vancouver which align with city priorities.

“The City of Vancouver, along with our local partners, welcomes the opportunity for Vancouver to be considered for hosting international sporting events,” Collens told Daily Hive.

“The sport of football is on the rise in Vancouver and BC, as evidenced by our recently successful bid with the BC Lions to host the 2024 Grey Cup. Building off this experience, the great momentum being created by Amar Doman, the new owner of the BC Lions Football Club, and the success of the team on the field, matched with the experience we are gaining on our current work for the FIFA World Cup 2026, we are well positioned to showcase Vancouver’s ability to host an NFL international game.”

It would seem likely that the BC Lions would prefer any NFL games in Vancouver to be scheduled after their season has concluded, and not have it in close proximity to next year’s Grey Cup at BC Place. But what about any other year in late November?

Perhaps the Lions could partner with the NFL for cross-promotion, as they appeared to do with the Seattle Seahawks ahead of BC’s home playoff game in October.

The NFL has yet to reveal which international cities will host games in 2023 and last year’s host cities weren’t announced until May.

As for which teams could appear in an NFL game hosted in Canada, perhaps a December 15, 2021 announcement will give us a clue. The NFL has granted access to 26 “international home marketing areas” across eight different countries for 18 of its teams.

Five of the six teams that have the United Kingdom as a home marketing area have played in London at least once in the last two years. This season’s game in Mexico City was played between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals — two teams that have Mexico as a home marketing area.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of four teams with an international marketing area in Germany and they played in Munich this season.

The two teams with home marketing areas in Canada are the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. Due to their proximity to the Canadian border, the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions did not have to formally bid on international rights but can continue marketing in Southern Ontario as part of the NFL’s 75-mile territorial rights zone.

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