Top NFL Exec Believes League Could Have A Team Based In London By '22
London might not be getting an NFL team in the near future, but league Exec VP/Int'l Mark Waller believes the city is "ready for one," according to Albert Breer of SI.com. Waller said, "We’ve proven clearly that the level of support is here from a fan perspective, a stadium and stadium ownership perspective and from a city and government perspective. We’ll get a lot of support if and when we need it." Ravens-Jaguars on Sunday marks the NFL's "second decade" of the Int'l Series, and league in '17 will "play four games in London this year for the first time." Waller: "Our job is to make sure, for London, that if and when an owner feels it’s the right move to make, we’re ready for it. ... The one thing we can’t show yet: can a team be competitive week in and week out? That’s why I’d like to do back-to-back weeks with the same team (next year), to get real sense of how that works." Waller believes having a team in London by '22 is "doable." Waller: "That aligns well from a CBA and union standpoint. ... And from a media/broadcast standpoint, we’d need to think it through." Waller said that the hope is to "give a London team two facilities -- one in the UK and another somewhere in the U.S. southeast." Waller: "If the team had a second base on the East Coast, and when they came over to the States they were going back to a familiar place, there’s a general feel (among teams) that it would solve a vast number of the operational issues" (SI.com, 9/21). NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood also talked in-depth with SBD GLOBAL about the London series.
WEEK ONE TEA TIME: Ravens Senior VP/Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne said that the team for this weekend's game "sold 4,000 tickets through the team’s ticket offices, and local travel groups bought more directly from the NFL on the first day of the public sale." Byrne: "An NFL executive told me that they have had more demand for tickets from the Baltimore area than any other visiting team in the London series" (Baltimore SUN, 9/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote the Jags have "never had one of their players connect with the English the way a pseudo 'home team' star could." Jags RB Leonard Fournette has the "potential to not just transform the franchise but also give the Jaguars the kind of easy-to-root-for-star in their home away from home." Fournette said, "If I give them a show, I think they are going to want my jersey. I might be the biggest player there." Fournette wants to "embrace London, this year and every year." Fournette: "I can connect with the fans. Just give me a chance to interact with the people in London and for me to get to know their culture. I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity to get to know how they are" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/20).
GOING EAST? Waller said that the league’s focus in China is now in "trying to get people playing, since -- given the time difference, and that NFL games are played in the middle of the night there -- it’ll be hard to simply build viewership." He added that they "don’t want to go there and play a one-off game with no long-term plan." SI.com's Breer noted Waller "isn’t optimistic China will host a game next season." Waller: "I don’t think it’ll be ’18. I don’t think we’re ready" (SI.com, 9/21).