SBD/October 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Long-Term Plans In London Could Include Three Regular-Season Games

Goodell said the NFL putting a franchise in London is its "best chance for succcess"
The Patriots-Rams game in London on Sunday could be a precursor to the NFL soon having three games a year in the U.K. and a franchise there not long after. During a fan forum earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly broached the idea of three regular-season games in London annually. He later expanded on his comment, saying the expansion could come relatively quickly depending on the success the league has in England next year. The NFL in '13 will play two regular-season games in London for the first time, doubling the number that has been played there annually since '07. Asked what would need to happen to decide whether the London calendar should increase to three, Goodell said the answer would come in part from seeing whether both games sell out as easily as the one has done for 85,000-seat Wembley Stadium. He thinks it will happen. Goodell also has the support of ownership in his push for overseas growth. “This is a unique opportunity for the league to gauge interest over there,” Giants President & CEO John Mara said of playing games in London. “I think we are number seven over there in terms of media coverage. Maybe if we have games on a regular basis, maybe that can go up. I don’t see any downside to it.” Expanding overseas is part of the league’s ambitious goal to hit $25B in annual revenue by '27, a bar Goodell set two years ago. Currently, league revenue is closing in on $10B. New media contracts in '14 should push the figure to about half of Goodell’s goal, but that would mean league revenue at that point would still need to double in a dozen years to reach the goal, with the NFL already hitting on all cylinders domestically. That leaves foreign lands, where American football is decidedly less popular, as perhaps the best opportunity to increase revenue.

LONDON AHEAD OF L.A.? Speaking at the forum, Goodell sounded more optimistic and enthusiastic about placing a franchise in London than he did about having one in L.A. "We believe that’s our best chance for success, so that is why we are playing there ... multiple games,” Goodell said of London. “And I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see us have a team there. … We might be willing to take a shot at it.” On L.A., Goodell commented, “It is all focused on getting the right kind of stadium situation.” The Rams and Raiders relocated from L.A. after the '94 season, and the league since then has struggled to find the right proposal to return.
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