The NFL owners have signed a resolution which extends the ability to play international regular season games through 2025 and broadens the league’s opportunity to play games in countries other than the United Kingdom.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “This marks an important step in our long-term international growth. Fans in the UK have responded incredibly well to the regular season games we have played in London since 2007. They have demanded more NFL games and we have worked to accommodate them. We think it’s time to expand our International Series to other countries and respond to the growing interest in our game, not only in the UK, but elsewhere around the world.”
Here are some of my thoughts and opinions with regard to this historic announcement…
- I think this time frame is great and guarantees at least another 10 years of games played overseas and therefore I think it is safe to assume we have games in the UK during that time (not that it was ever in doubt). That allows for more long-term growth and planning and to keep this exciting venture we have going on in the UK moving forward.
- British fans should not worry about the fact that games will be played in other international markets. Those games, in my opinion, will not be at the expense of games being played in London. The league has tremendous momentum in the UK at the moment and will not want to lose that.
- Other markets could get games as early as next season but, again, I do not expect a reduction in London contests in 2016. First in line for a crack at hosting International Series games will be Mexico and Germany.
- Unlike the American Bowl series which took in countries such as Australia, Spain, Sweden, Japan among others in what seemed like a random attempt to circumnavigate the globe, any move to a new international market will be well thought out and strategic. The NFL is used to sold out games at Wembley Stadium and will expect similar success elsewhere.
- I don’t think the international growth of the NFL will be restricted to regular season games. NFL Executive Vice President International Mark Waller has already gone on record as saying the league is looking at Brazil as a potential Pro Bowl venue.
- Finally – and this is most important – all this deal does is give a timeframe within which the league can operate and plan financials etc. and it expands the current agreement beyond the UK. It should not be read to the exact letter – it does not mean that ONLY regular season games can be played in London until 2025. It does not mean a franchise is not being considered. Far from it, in fact, I think the NFL is steaming ahead with its plans to either place a team here within four or five years or to play an 8-game series on these shores. Although they all fall under the same umbrella of this deal which runs through 2025, I feel the activities in the UK will go ahead independent of what other games are being played around the world.