(Photo: LCC Radotin)
Over the past few years, the presence of major professional sports leagues in North America playing games outside of the countries they have franchises in has become quite common. The NBA, NHL, and NFL have all done this. Whether it is a pre-season showcase or a regular-season tilt, each of those three leagues have played a game outside of the United States or Canada at some point in time over the past five years.
In this global society we now live in, sports and sports fandom has become global. And fans across the globe want nothing more than to see their favorite players live in action, whether there is a team in their country or not. Pro league’s having these global game series has been very positive and connects fans across the globe, No matter what the sport. It also further globalizes a respective league and can bring in great profits for the league and franchises involved.
With professional lacrosse getting bigger and better each year and the game booming across the globe, will we ever see a professional lacrosse league play a single game outside of North America or host a global series in one or multiple countries?
The question is intriguing and the answer is pretty complex at the moment due to the current state of professional lacrosse.
The PLL and MLL are the two pro field leagues, and looking from the outside in, the PLL is likely in the best position to host a game outside of the US or Canada just due to their massive social media presence and how well they have been able to create fan engagement and promote their product. Also, the savviness of those behind the league and well-financed backing this early on doesn’t hurt, as well. But that’s not to say that the MLL could be set up to pull off such an event, but it does, at least appear, as a much more far fetched thought in the current climate.
If either field league was going to play a game or series of games abroad, Australia would likely be the spot they hit. Aussie lacrosse fans are some of the best in the world at International tournaments and the field game is pretty established there, making either league a pretty big draw. Also, Japan could be an option with the MLL having two Japanese born players and a few pro field men and women went over and did a showcase last year.
The field game is more popular worldwide, but the NLL is the most established and oldest active pro league in the world. With the leadership of commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, the NLL has undergone massive improvements and growth, that included expansion and further digital distribution of the league.
The NLL may be in the best spot, from a business perspective, to host a game or series of games outside of the United States and Canada.
If the NLL were to host a global game series, where would they go? Well…there are multiple options.
Travel wise, Mexico seems like the easiest since it is the closest, but the attendance could be poor even with the box game and game, in general, growing very efficiently in the country. So, fan exposure wise and business-wise, Prague, Czech Republic makes the most sense and seems to be the most likely place.
As host of the Ales Herbresky Memorial tournament every spring, LCC Radotin makes the most sense as a venue that would be suitable for an NLL game in terms of play on the floor and attendance numbers. The only issue would be that it is outside so pre-season play in November or regular-season games later in the season in March and April.
But a late April NLL game in Prague at LCC Radotin just might be the right place and right time. Imagine if the NLL played a game a day prior to the Ales Hrebersky tournament or they capped off day one with an NLL game? The amount of people from across the lacrosse world that descend upon Prague for that tournament is huge, so attendance would not be an issue at all.
While a late April game or series in Prague would be the most likely time and place where the NLL would choose to go overseas and play a game, but England, Finland, Germany, and multiple other European countries would also make sense, as well.
So, another option could be for the NLL to play multiple pre-season or in-season games in different countries. For example, they could have a game in Germany one week and then have a game in Germany either the very next week or a few weeks later. They could also have two teams tour a country or region, playing back-to-back games abroad in the same weekend.
All three of those systems have been utilized by the NBA, NFL, and NHL. It has worked for those leagues, so who’s not to say that it wouldn’t work for the NLL? Sure, attendance would be much less but if they marketed it right, the upside in terms of exposure and growth of the sport could be huge.
Any sort of pro lacrosse game being played outside of the United States and Canada may be a bit of a stretch at the moment, but there is no doubt that we will one day see it and that it would be great for the overall growth and exposure of the game.