The NFL is considering alternative venues in London when their current contract with Wembley Stadium expires in 2016, according to Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal.
The NFL has been playing games at Wembley Stadium since 2007 and the iconic venue will host three regular season contests in 2014.
But are the NFL starting to explore their options given that, as expected, multiple games will be played in London for the forseeable future, with the possibility of four games per year as early as 2015?
NFL Senior Vice President of International Chris Parsons told Sports Business Journal:
“The expectation is we will be playing games beyond 2016 and we need the flexibility to play those games where we want and when we want.
“Clearly Wembley gives us some great options. At the same time, Wembley also has England (soccer) games going on during the weeks we play. That is a challenge for us if we want to play more games, how we actually fit into the schedule.”
The stadium issue is likely to become even more prevalent in the coming years as the NFL continues to grow in the United Kingdom. Even if a potential London franchise is not coming just yet, the league seems intent on continued testing of the UK market.
That could mean four games per year or it could be that the league puts together a “season ticket” package and plays eight contests per season in London, dictating that multiple teams play overseas in a more formal rotation.
That is all speculation for now but what is perfectly clear is that more games appear to be on the horizon for the United Kingdom and London in particular. And no matter how happy the NFL are with Wembley – and there is a huge level of comfort with the national stadium from a logistical point of view – increased games will lead to increased calendar congestion.
According to Kaplan’s report, Parsons cited Twickenham Stadium and the Olympic Stadium as alternative venues. More interesting were the other sources who quoted discussions that have taken place between the NFL and Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
Spurs – who deny discussions have taken place with the NFL – are planning to build a new 58,000-seat stadium which is due to open in 2017. That might answer that problem posed by many who wonder if a London NFL franchise could sell 84,000 tickets for an entire season.
For now, the NFL appears very happy with Wembley Stadium. But they also appear to be keeping their options open.
“We are constantly looking at where we can play, what options we might have. We would be stupid not to.”