World / Reporter's Journal

Tuesday night football?: China could get NFL season-opener in 2018

(China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-08-18 10:30

The San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams could play the 2018 National Football League opener in China - on a day of the week not normally associated with pro football - according to a sports media report making the internet rounds.

Tuesday night football?: China could get NFL season-opener in 2018

Sports Business Global reported on Tuesday that the teams will play on a Tuesday or Wednesday, a day or two before the NFL's now-traditional Thursday night opener. reported that if the game is played on a Tuesday, it would be only the second time in 72 years that the NFL has held a game on that weekday.

The NFL on Wednesday declined to comment on the report. Any game in China would need to be approved at a league owners meeting in October. The NFL also will require a Chinese broadcast partner to carry the game and a stadium to stage it.

"I know they're looking at sites in Beijing and Shanghai. A group from the NFL visited China last month to do some research," Donald Muret, who reported in July about a China game in Sports Business Daily, told me in an email.

Considering the NFL's penchant for prime-time TV viewers, the game would probably be played anywhere from 8 am to 11 am in China.

If it is the West Coast's Niners and Rams, their jet lag would be considerably less than it would be for East Coast teams, because they're flying from California (Seattle, home of the Seahawks, is the NFL city closest to Beijing).

LA and SF also have significant Chinese populations, although there's no indication that's a factor. San Francisco has the largest Chinese population per capita in the US, and the Chinese presence in the city goes back to the days of the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad.

Los Angeles' original Chinatown was established in the 1850s, and its overall Chinese population is the third highest in the US.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in March that "we actually have multiple teams that are interested in playing (in China)," . "We have more than we can handle at this point in time, which is a good issue. I think teams are interested in one, participating in how we expand our game on a global basis, but in particular in China.

"I think the size and the influence of China in the global marketplace is obviously something you can't ignore," the commissioner said. "You can't ignore that as a sport or business or as a nation. So from our standpoint, we know we have lots of fans over there and more importantly, potential fans over there, so we had a number of activities that are designed to increase the popularity of our game over there to give them a better sense of our game, and a regular-season game has proven to be a real driver to that type of activity."

If the game becomes a reality, China has the stadiums.

Beijing National Stadium, known as the "Bird's Nest" and the centerpiece of the 2008 Olympics, seats 80,000. Shanghai Stadium holds about 57,000. If the NFL went outside the premier cities, the Guangdong Olympic Stadium in Guangzhou seats 80,000.

Elsewhere in overseas NFL action, for the third year in a row, there will be three regular-season games in London in 2016.

The NFL last played a game in Mexico in 2005, but will return to the country with a game in Mexico City this season.

The 2016 season will be the first one in which four NFL regular-season games will have been played outside the United States in one season.

** In a follow-up to last week's column on a rash of robberies going back to May at Asian-owned businesses in Philadelphia (mostly Chinese restaurants), city police on Monday charged one of two suspects, a 29-year-old city man, with multiple counts involving home invasion-style robberies at eight establishments. The other suspect is being sought.

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