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Volume 21 No. 1
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NFL plans back-to-back-to-back London weekends next season

Tottenham Stadium, under construction in London, is set to host the NFL in 2018.
GETTY IMAGES
The NFL is planning to stage games in London on three consecutive weekends next year, a first for the league.

The league now stages four games a season in London, and it is no secret there might be more in future years, if not a full-time team, so playing games on consecutive weeks is viewed as necessary to prove the market can handle more. This season the league for the first time executed games on consecutive weekends.

Next season is also the first time that Tottenham Stadium, now under construction, is scheduled to begin hosting two games a season. The league is creating contingency plans, however, if it decides only one game is possible in the first year of the stadium.

“We are also working on a contingency plan in the event that there are any unexpected changes to the readiness of the Tottenham stadium and related transportation services and infrastructure,” the NFL’s executive vice president of international, Mark Waller, wrote in an email. He said plans should be complete by the end of the regular season or soon after.

TIPPING THE CAP: The NFL salary cap plus benefits is tentatively projected to rise to $212 million next season from $204 million a club, an NFL source said. That is a smaller rise than previous years, largely due to a scheduled flattening of the increases in 2018 of broadcast contract fees and no new stadium openings. The figures presume a new extension for “Thursday Night Football” and include the new five-year sponsorship and media deal with Verizon, announced Dec. 11 and worth $2.5 billion, according to sources. The salary cap portion of the $212 million is about $174 million, with the remainder being benefits. The league and NFLPA will formally set the figures before the start of the new league year in early March.

SALES FLUFFING UP: NFL licensees have taken a big hit after reaction to player protests during the national anthem. But at least one, The Northwest Co., which has a license to affix NFL team logos on blankets and pillows, is saying its business is recovering.

After President Donald Trump’s Alabama speech before week three in which he called out players for kneeling, Northwest’s business nosedived, company CEO Ross Auerbach said. Auerbach said he called the league the night of the speech to express his concern.

But in recent weeks, business is recovering, he said, fueled by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.

That said, one league source said the biggest licensed merchandise category, jerseys, has continued to take a big hit.

OWNERS ONLY: League employees were a little out of sorts at this league meeting. It was the first to start with an owners-only meeting, a new initiative started under pressure from owners resentful of the influence of league staff. Normally meetings are full of league staff and other team employees. But on the morning here of the one-day meeting, they were left like the reporters in the hallways, to twiddle their thumbs and wonder what was happening behind closed doors.