The NFL New England Patriots-St. Louis 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.
TWO MORE ON TAP: In London, Mark Cue reports that London Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed that Wembley Stadium will host two regular-season NFL games for the first time next year. The Minnesota Vikings will play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 29, and the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers will play on Oct. 27. Johnson says the games will boost the London economy "by somewhere in the region of £22 million," but more important, the mayor "hopes that the matches will bolster the capital’s reputation as a magnet for international sport following the successful staging of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics." Johnson: “London has staged an extraordinary year of sport and I want to ensure this is a springboard for even more world class sports spectaculars in the future” (LONDON TIMES, 10/29).
WHERE'S THE BUZZ?: With the Patriots-Rams game Sunday at Wembley Stadium, there was scant coverage of the game in the London daily papers this weekend. The GUARDIAN has a primer on the NFL’s progress in the market under the header, “Razzle Meets Dazzle As NFL Comes Out Of The Shadows In The UK” (GUARDIAN, 10/27). It is “unfortunate for the NFL” that the game “will clash with the highly anticipated” ManU-Chelsea match (ESPNBOSTON.com, 10/26). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote on Saturday there “was not a great deal of buzz” in London about the game (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26).
KRAFT IN FAVOR: NESN.com reported that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said that it is "time to add one more sport" in the U.K. At an NFL FanFest event in Trafalgar Square, Kraft said, "You're already hosting the Premier League, and we believe we're the premier sport in the world. I think London has shown, with the way they've handled the Olympics and every other major sporting event, that it's time for you to have your own NFL franchise, based in London." He also had "interesting thoughts" about who the London crowds would root for. Kraft said, "These people out here make us feel that this is a home game -- New England is coming back to England" (NESN.com, 10/27).