In a press box high above the field Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt spent 10 minutes addressing the reasons the team is surrendering a home game next season to play the Detroit Lions in London.
The biggest of which, he clarified, is the hope of someday bringing a Super Bowl to Kansas City.
Hunt said the league passed a recently amended resolution from 2006 that requires teams that play host to a Super Bowl to also be host to an overseas game, and he is hopeful his team’s decision to surrender their home-field advantage against the Lions will take care of that obligation for the next four or five years as it pursues a Super Bowl bid.
“I can’t look too far in the future, but one of the things that factored into my thought process was by doing this next year, this takes care of part of our obligation in the short run,” Hunt said.
Hunt, however, said Kansas City still has plenty of hurdles to clear before it wants to play host to a Super Bowl, which team president Mark Donovan was trying to allude to last week when he said the team’s decision to play overseas wasn’t “related to” the Super Bowl.
“I think Mark, when he spoke to you guys on Thursday, mentioned that really from a Kansas City standpoint, it’s more about the weather,” said Hunt, who said he was traveling when the news broke Thursday. “That’s the first hurdle we have to jump over. The league is going to have to make the decision to take the Super Bowl back to a cold-weather site.”
Hunt, who is chairman of the NFL’s international committee, said the league — which is playing three games in London next year — is putting an emphasis on expanding its overseas reach.
“I certainly think four (games) is possible,” said Hunt, who also expects the Chiefs to be a road team in the international series sometime over the next five or six years. “The league requested that we play the game over there. … The series has been around for seven or so years. We’ll be the 10th team to give up a home game. The league is in the process of encouraging more teams to do so. I would expect, over time, that the list will grow to a majority of the teams.”
Hunt said that includes some bigger-market teams as well, though he did not want to name any in particular. Some teams, like Dallas, have pushed back against losing a home game for the sake of the international series, even with the Super Bowl as a potential carrot.
“I’d be reluctant to go market by market, but I’ll tell you, there will be some of those teams playing games, particularly if they want to bid for a Super Bowl,” Hunt said. “I felt like it was not a question of if we were going to end up playing a home game overseas, it was really a question of when.”
So for that reason, and a few others, Hunt believes the time was right to do it.
“First of all, we’ve got a year where we’ll have a number of non-Chiefs events playing at Arrowhead — we’ve announced one of the concerts already and we have more announcements coming,” Hunt said.
Hunt was referring to the One Direction concert slated for July 28, 2015, at Arrowhead Stadium, which is playing host to three small-college games this year.
Another reason the time is right, Hunt said, is Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s overall road record, which is 74-50-1 after Sunday’s 17-13 victory over Buffalo.
“We have a head coach who is very, very good on the road,” Hunt said. “His record both with us and with the Eagles is very strong. That played into the decision from a competitive standpoint.”
Hunt also likes the fact that by working with the league, the Chiefs were able to play the game against a non-AFC opponent, with the bye immediately afterward.
Hunt hopes that eases some of the sting of losing home-field advantage for one week, though there’s no guarantee the revenue the Chiefs will lose from playing one less home date will be recouped.
“The (NFL) has a process where they try to make the team whole, if you will, on the economics,” Hunt said. “And I’ve heard that it’s had mixed results for the teams that have been over. Some, it has covered it. Others, it has not.
“The only thing I think we can compare it to is (how) they do the same when you’re the away team in a playoff game, and I know for a fact they don’t cover all your expenses. I hope it does but I don’t know.”
Hunt says he also understands why season-ticket holders are angered by the fact they will lose a home game but still have to pay full-price for preseason games.
“Let me just say directly — I understand why our fans are frustrated,” Hunt said. “Frankly, I don’t expect them to be happy about it … they’re so passionate, and they want to spend their Sunday afternoons cheering the team on.
“We’re going to talk about ideas about things that we can do for them to help compensate.”
Hunt, however, thinks the fans that make the trip to London and enjoy the experience, though he knows that’s not an option for everybody.
“For the ones that can’t do that, we definitely want to do something for them, in Kansas City,” Hunt said. “Perhaps Arrowhead. We’re working on that. We’ll roll that out in the near future.”