NFL Close To Securing Three London Games For '14, While Push For Permanent Team Continues
The "spectacular success of the NFL’s decision to allow matches to be played in London has led to calls for the city to host its own permanent franchise," while NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood "revealed he was in negotiations over staging three regular-season matches in London" in '14, according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Kirkwood said of relocating a team, "It’s possible that it could be done before the end of the decade." However, he warned that 24 of the 32 current NFL owners "would have to agree any such move." Kirkwood: "I think the league should have aspirations to be global and having a London franchise would be a great step towards it, but it would have to be under certain conditions." Kirkwood added that one of those conditions "would be 'tripling' the UK fan base for American football." Kirkwood said that a London NFL franchise was "not inevitable." Meanwhile, Wembley Stadium Managing Dir Roger Maslin "expressed his desire to bring the Super Bowl" to the venue. Maslin said, "If they were bringing it anywhere in the world, we want it here." Kirkwood warned that the prospect of Wembley hosting the Super Bowl was "much further away" than the possibility of a London NFL franchise, but "cited the fact New York was hosting the event for the first time next year as evidence it was not an impossible dream" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/24).
MAKING THE PITCH: In London, Robin Scott-Elliot cites English FA officials, whose organization owns Wembley Stadium, as saying that the facility is "willing and able to host any prospective London-based NFL franchise, and could do so alongside the 'priority' demands" of soccer. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has become "increasingly keen on establishing a franchise in London, having been impressed by the success of the one-off matches staged there." Maslin yesterday said that the "demands of staging regular American football games were not a problem for the stadium, or the pitch." Maslin: "We would be very happy to facilitate NFL at Wembley. We can hold games every couple of weeks, absolutely" (INDEPENDENT.co.uk, 9/23). Maslin said, "I am absolutely confident if Roger Goodell wanted to have a franchise here we could absolutely deliver on it." The AP's Rob Harris noted the NFL's two London games this season "sold out within hours." Maslin said that that is "a sign of the rising popularity of the NFL in Britain." NFL Senior VP/Int'l Chris Parsons said that the "'core fan base' in the U.K. is now more than 2 million." Parsons said having a full-time London franchise is "clearly an option" for the NFL. But he "cautioned that there are no immediate plans" (AP, 9/23).