SBD/October 24, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Finalizes '14 U.K. Games; Cowboys, Dolphins, Lions Are Heading Overseas

Team popularity is a reason the Cowboys in '14 will play in London
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today announced that the Cowboys, Dolphins and Lions will take part in the league’s ’14 Int'l Series. Next year’s series includes Cowboys-Jaguars, Lions-Falcons and Dolphins-Raiders. Dates for the games will be set at a later time (NFL). ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has "wanted to play in London, and it's the most attractive game" on the Jaguars' schedule next year. After this season, in which the Jaguars are 0-7, the NFL wants to match them "with a marquee franchise such as the Cowboys" (ESPN.com, 10/23). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes the league has been “itching to put” the Cowboys in the Int'l Series because they “remain one of the most popular teams in the NFL.” However, most teams “don't want to give up a chance to host the Cowboys, and the guarantee of a big ticket draw” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 10/24). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Dave Birkett writes when the Falcons agreed earlier this month to host a ‘14 home game in London, the Lions “seemed like a strong candidate to be their opponent.” Only seven of each team’s home games “are known so far … and the league has never scheduled a division game to be played internationally.” That left the Falcons with “four likely opponents for London” -- the Lions, Bears, Steelers and Browns. The Steelers “played there earlier this year,” while the Bears played the Buccaneers in London in ’11. The Lions, with WR Calvin Johnson, DT Ndamukong Suh, RB Reggie Bush and QB Matthew Stafford, “have more star power than the Browns” (FREEP.com, 10/24). NFL Network’s Steve Wyche said, “I guess they are trying to make it competitive, but if you look at the opponents, these are national." NFL Net’s Jeff Garcia: “Three games next year, how many games the following year? When is the team just going to land in London and we have eight home games actually out there?" (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 10/24).

TWITTER REAX TO GAMES: The Guardian's Paolo Bandini tweeted, "Lions-Falcons has potential to be a great game, but Dolphins-Raiders might be most exciting to UK fans. Both teams v well supported in UK." S.F.-based KGMZ-FM show host Dan Dibley: "The @NFL announces the #Raiders will play the #Dolphins in London next year. I think it's a great move for the globalization of the #SHIELD." London Independent's Nick Szczepanik: "So Jerry Jones has been persuaded to bring the Dallas Cowboys to London - a coup for Wembley." Miami-based WPLG-ABC anchor Jason Martinez: "Dolphins vs Raiders in London. Blah. The NFL overseas was cool the first year. Pointless ever since. Do we really expect a London NFL team?"

CRAVEN MELON: Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan said that he "had thought about playing a game" at EPL club Fulham's Craven Cottage in the future. SKY SPORTS' Paul Higham noted with the Jaguars scheduled to play a game at London's Wembley stadium each of the next four years, they will "become pretty well known in London." Khan said that an NFL team based in London "is still a long way off and would not put his team's name forward as a possible option." Khan said that he "could envisage staging a Jaguars home game" at Craven Cottage "even if the venue is a lot smaller than the usual NFL home." Khan: "Anything is possible. We're playing here once a year at Wembley, and maybe we end up playing here. That's what I was talking to with our media from Jacksonville, this is like a high school game setting, so personal, so up close, it might be kind of fun" (SKYSPORTS.com, 10/23). Khan added, "This would be the Friday Night Lights of the NFL and it would be so unique, you have people in the U.S. who would want to come here and see an NFL game like they had never seen one before" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 10/24).

PANNING FOR GOLD: In San Jose, Cam Inman notes 49ers DT and London native Lawrence Okoye "played the role of media darling" yesterday in preparations for 49ers-Jaguars Sunday at Wembley, even if he "won’t play a snap this season" due to injury. A '12 London Games discus thrower, Okoye "is an example of how the NFL can grow internationally." Okoye said, "The NFL’s made it clear they want to make this a global sport, and to do that, you need to make it global by getting athletes outside the United States -- i.e. myself -- and obviously by playing outside the United States.” While he is "excited to get back on the field next spring, he’s also encouraged by the NFL’s potential beyond the U.S. borders." Okoye: “All my teammates are excited about coming here. They want to see it grow, too. The British public wants to see it grow. The NFL wants to see it grow. If you have the players, the NFL and the country in unison, that’s a good thing. I really do feel the NFL will become more and more of a global brand as the years go on" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 10/23). ESPN.com's Bill Williamson wrote the 49ers are "embracing this midseason jaunt over the pond," and they "could be considered darlings of the local media." Okoye is a "star attraction despite not playing," while defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, a former NFL Europe coach, is "a downright media star here." Coach Jim Harbaugh and QB Colin Kaepernick also "shined under the spotlight at the first media session" yesterday (ESPN.com, 10/23).

PROBLEM SOLVED? In California, Michael Lev writes it is "no secret that the NFL’s owners would like to mine the London market, where American football has proved to be a popular pastime." A possible plan to increase the brand in London would be to add a "17th game to each team’s schedule and stage said games in London and L.A." Lev: "Obviously, any sort of fundamental alterations to the league’s schedule would require collective bargaining. The owners sought an 18-game schedule. ... You know what would be more tolerable for players than adding two games? Adding one" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/24).
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