NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has long been a staunch supporter of international growth in London and has often spoken openly about a potential franchise in the British capital.
While a franchise may still require some tricky logistical navigating, Goodell told Richard Graves of Sky Sports News that there has never been a better time to be a British American football fan and that “the NFL was going to find more ways for fans in the UK to engage with football.”
We have been over the London franchise subject quite a bit on this website in recent weeks so I thought I would highlight the other parts of the Commissioner’s interview that I found interesting.
More games on the horizon…
Commissioner Goodell has been encouraged by the three sold out games in 2014 and points out that the NFL is evaluating the subject of expanding to more regular season contests as early as 2015.
“We have to meet the demand. We’re looking to see if four games is the right thing to do or to go to five games. We recognise the fans here want to see more and we’re going to try to meet that demand.
“We’re playing catch up here in that the demand grows faster than the supply. What we’re trying to do is find more creative ways to bring more football to our fans in the UK.”
NFL teams lining up to play in London…
This is not that surprising considering the Jaguars are signed up through 2016 and both the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets recently expressed a desire to play in London. And we know teams like the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys are led by pro-London owners.
Talking about the interest from NFL clubs to be part of the league’s overseas adventure, Commissioner Goodell said:
“There were some sceptics at first when we started this International Series in 2007 – but they have gone away. Our teams have enjoyed the experience and we have more demand from our teams than we can meet.”
That is good news and should suspend the debate that the NFL will soon run out of teams willing to play in London.
Regent Street event to return in 2014…
The Commissioner may not have been in London for the first of the two regular season games played in 2013, but he was still moved by the fact more than half a million NFL fans took over Regent Street the day before the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Commissioner Goodell told Sky Sports News:
“It was overwhelming – when I saw those pictures it really hit home. The fans in the UK have the same level of passion and interest in the game as those in the United States. This year there will be 500,004 people on Regent Street because I’m bringing my family with me for that event. We will also be holding our Trafalgar Square event, along with three games. We’ve never had so much NFL activity in this market.”
NFL looking forward to ‘Breakfast at Wembley’ game…
When the Atlanta Falcons play host to the Detroit Lions on Sunday October 26 it will be a 1:30pm kick-off in the UK. Perhaps more of a story is the fact that it will be a 9.30am ET kick-off in the United States, offering up a new television window for NFL fans and one that might offer a tasty revenue stream for the league office in the future.
Could we eventually see an eight-game ‘Breakfast at Wembley’ package in London in the near future, with each game kicking off in that early morning time slot in the United States, lunchtime in the UK? Peter King, of Sports Illustrated, certainly feels multiple games is more likely than a franchise at this stage, as he told me this week when we met at Jacksonville Jaguars training camp.
Here is what Commissioner Goodell said about the football feast the NFL plans to serve up on October 26:
“It will be a football smorgasboard if you will with NFL games in the United States at 9.30am, 1pm, 4.25pm and 8.30pm. That’s going to be a tremendous experience for our fans. It’s a chance for us to try out a new time slot – it’s great for fans in the UK but it should also be well received back in the United States.”