London (not) calling: Packers know home, road limitations make trip unlikely

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mark Murphy was in no way surprised Tuesday morning when his Green Bay Packers weren’t among the eight NFL teams to get their passports to London.

“Well, I haven’t heard anything,” the Packers president/CEO had said on Monday in an interview on ESPN Wisconsin’s Wilde & Tausch. “So that’s not a good sign.”

Murphy and the Packers may not hear London calling for a long time, either.

Because of the economic impact each home game has on the NFL’s smallest market, the Packers refuse to give up one of their home games to play overseas. And because their fans travel so well, opposing teams don’t want to surrender one of their most appealing home games against a road team with such an ardent following.

That’s what happened this season, according to Murphy. Murphy was hoping that the Packers’ game at Jacksonville would be chosen as one of this year's London games, but Jaguars owner Shahid Khan made it very clear that he wasn’t about to give up a sure-fire sellout.

Instead, the Packers played at Jacksonville on Sept. 11 and beat the Jaguars 27-23.

“I was really disappointed. I thought Jacksonville this year would have been a good chance,” Murphy said. “Shad Khan, I called him [last year]. I’ve gotten to know him, he’s a really good guy, I really like him. I said, ‘Shad, you know, we’d really love to play in London.’ And he said, ‘Mark, there’s no way in hell I’m moving your Packer game to London.’

“And then when we played them, I saw him on the field, and he said, ‘Mark, we set a revenue record!’”

Murphy said another factor working against the Packers is that for teams that use a variable-pricing ticket model, the Packers are almost always in the highest, most expensive tier.

“Because we travel so well, we’re usually the most expensive ticket for teams. So they’re making a lot of money,” Murphy said. “They know our fans are going to travel.”

Murphy, a member of the NFL’s management council executive committee since 2008 and part of the league’s competition committee since 2012, said the NFL can compel a team to play overseas in two instances: If that team is playing in a temporary facility or if it has been awarded a Super Bowl.

That means the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers’ NFC North rivals who are slated to face the Cleveland Browns in London next year, would be an option because they’re set to host Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018. So, too, would the Los Angeles Rams, whom the Packers are scheduled to visit in 2018. The Rams are temporarily playing at the Los Angeles Coliseum and on Tuesday had their 2017 home game against the Arizona Cardinals moved to London.

“I’d be in favor of playing the Vikings game in London,” Murphy said with a chuckle. “I don’t know how that’d go over with the Vikings.”

Jason Wilde covers the Green Bay Packers for ESPN Wisconsin.