NFL Will Expand Int'l Series To Three Games In '14 As Raiders, Falcons Join The Mix
The NFL yesterday officially announced a third regular-season game in London for '14, building on two this year. There had been one game in prior years since the league began playing in the U.K. in '07. The Raiders, Falcons and Jaguars each will be a home team next year at Wembley Stadium. The Jaguars are playing one game a year in London for four years starting later this month. The Falcons' inclusion is somewhat surprising given the home teams largely have been those with some struggles selling out games. The dates and away teams will be announced later this season (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said that the addition of a third game "is not a test balloon to see if London would support an NFL team of their own." He said, "That’s not our objective here, the objective here is to grow the game internationally" (WSJ.com, 10/8). But YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Edholm wrote, "It's clear the league wants to test the viability of a London franchise." While signals from Goodell and league officials the past few years "make us believe" L.A. is "more likely to receive a franchise sooner than London might, there always exists the possibility of more than one franchise changing cities as the league prefers to stick with the symmetry of 32 teams" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/8).
NEW LEASE AGREEMENTS NEEDED: CSNBAYAREA.com's Scott Bair noted in order for the Raiders to play in London next season, the team "must amend a stadium lease that has remained static" despite an '09 renewal, as "no alternate sites are permitted" under the lease agreement at O.co Coliseum. A new lease agreement, which "has yet to be negotiated, must amend that provision if the Raiders are to play in London." The Raiders, fiscally speaking, "stand to make much more from a London game than a typical home game" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 10/8). Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Tim Tucker reports as a precursor to the NFL announcement, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority BOD yesterday voted unanimously to waive for '14 a provision in the Falcons’ Georgia Dome lease that "requires the team to play eight regular-season games in the Dome each season." GWCCA Exec Dir Frank Poe said that issues such as how the "loss of one Georgia Dome game affects season-ticket holders, suite holders and corporate sponsors will be 'managed jointly with the Falcons as we approach the 2014 season'" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 10/9).
BAY CITY ROLLERS: KGMZ-FM's Mark Kreidler said he was "intrigued by the possibility" that the Raiders could face the 49ers in London next year. The two teams are scheduled to play, and "given some of the history between the two teams, particularly in the stands and the parking lots the last couple of years ... it wouldn't be entirely shocking to see those teams" going against each other in London ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 10/8). The 49ers are playing the Jaguars in London later this month, and ESPN.com's Bill Williamson wrote it is "not out of the question" that they could return in '14. The Raiders-49ers preseason series "was scuttled a couple of years ago because of major game-day fan violence," and keeping the '14 game "out of the Bay Area, which albeit would be sad, would mean less potential problems" (ESPN.com, 10/8). Meanwhile, in San Jose, Tim Kawakami notes of the International Series, "The NFL usually guarantees the 'home' teams the equivalent of the money from a regular home sellout, so teams (like the Raiders) that aren't sure they actually can get sellouts are more likely to accept the cash guarantee." However, late Raiders Owner Al Davis -- "even in the worst ticket-selling days of Raiders history in Oakland -- would've never given up a home date for a cash guarantee, because to Al winning the game was always paramount and nothing else was close." It is "always better and easier to do that on home turf, not flying thousands of miles to play in a soccer stadium just to make sure the NFL's international branding is sufficient" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/9).