England seeks NFL franchise in London within five years
Britain’s treasury chief pushed his case Friday for placing a permanent NFL franchise in London, saying he hoped the league would move a team to the capital within the next five years.
"The real prize, the touchdown for London, would be to get a team based here," Chancellor George Osborne said after a meeting with league executives, team owners and former star players. "I want London to be the global sporting capital."
The meeting came on the same day that the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets arrived in London ahead of their AFC East divisional game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. It’s the first of three NFL games in London this season.
"I am supporting the NFL to bring one of their 32 teams to London permanently and will work with them to make this happen," Osborne said. "Hopefully it is something we could achieve in the next few years, maybe four or five years’ time."
Osborne said Britain’s Treasury department and tax office were looking at "any barriers" the NFL might face in setting up a London team.
Osborne met at his Downing Street office with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Jets owner Woody Johnson and NFL executive Mark Waller to discuss the steps needed to locate a franchise here.
"We have always said our goal here is to build a fan base that would be able to support a franchise," Waller said, adding that a timeframe of five or six years from now "feels sort of right."
The NFL has played 11 regular-season games at Wembley since 2007. This week’s Jets-Dolphins game is the first divisional matchup in London. The Jacksonville Jaguars will play the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 25, followed the next week by the Kansas City Chiefs against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 1.
The NFL recently announced a 10-year deal to play at least two games each season at Premier League club Tottenham’s new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2018.
The Jaguars have a four-season deal, which expires in 2016, to play at least one home game per season at Wembley.
Osborne said having an NFL franchise would provide a huge boost to the London economy. His office cited a business study carried out last year that found that the two NFL games played here in 2013 contributed 32 million pounds ($48 million) to the London economy.
A London-based franchise playing eight regular-season home games a year could bring in 102 million pounds ($155 million), according to the study.
Osborne also met with two Hall of Famers, former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and Jets running back Curtis Martin. The former players presented Osborne with tem jerseys and an NFL ball, while he gave them a ball from the ongoing Rugby World Cup.