Over the past several seasons, the NFL has played at least one regular season game in London as part of an effort to expand the league’s appeal beyond American shores. This year featured three sold-out games played at Wembley Stadium. The 2015 season will see three more, including a divisional match-up between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. There will also be, for the very first time, games played in London on consecutive Sundays, which should test the fortitude of a pitch not designed to accommodate American football.
According to Jenny Coleman of NBC, the NFL considers there to be 3 million “avid” fans of American football living in the U.K., with an additional 8 million who follow the sport on a casual basis. Sunday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars drew 90,000 fans to Wembley — a sellout that totaled this season’s London attendance at 250,000. The popularity of these games is only fueling the fires of officials both in England and in New York, where the NFL is headquartered.
One report suggests that the NFL would like there to be a full-time team in London by 2022. A lot has to be ironed out before then. Where would the team play its 8 home games? Where would its practice facilities be? How would travel be handled? (You wouldn’t have a team play in London on Sunday night only to compete again in Seattle on Thursday.)
There’s also the thought of whether the league would prefer to move an existing team to London (like the Jaguars, who are playing one home game in London from 2013-2016) or expand the league with a brand new team. Regardless of what they decide, it’s a fair bet that the NFL will be playing a role in London (and beyond) each season moving forward.
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