NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expects the league to start playing multiple regular-season games in Britain in the next few years – an expansion that could lead to putting a franchise in London.
Goodell said Friday that “every indicator” shows the British market can support more games and that having a franchise here is of “tremendous interest” to the league. But he stopped short of giving a timeline for expanding the NFL’s overseas presence.
“The interest and the enthusiasm for our game continues to grow, and we want to feed that,” Goodell said. “We want to respond to that by hopefully bringing more to the UK.”
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Goodell spoke at a sports conference Friday ahead of Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium. It’s the third year in a row that the NFL is staging a regular-season game in London, and the league is now looking into playing at least two games a year in Britain, he said. Aside from London, Manchester and Glasgow, Scotland, are being looked at as potential venues.
“I expect that sometime in the next couple of years, we could be playing multiple games here,” Goodell said. “If we brought more than one game here, and it continues to have the same kind of enthusiasm and growth of interest, I think that is about as good of an indicator you can get that it could successfully support a franchise. And that’s what we’re looking at.”
Staging a Super Bowl abroad, however, “is not something that is under active consideration,” he said.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said moving an NFL team to London “would be the right thing to do some time in the next decade.”
However, if the league wants more of the current franchises to travel to London for games, the regular season should be extended to 18 games so that teams can keep the same number of home games, Kraft said. The Bucs are giving up a home game this season.
“I’m not sure our fans would appreciate us giving up a regular-season (home) game, and I know I wouldn’t like to do that. But eventually I think there’s a chance of that if we expand the schedule,” Kraft said.
Goodell said he would prefer it if a potential London-based team was a completely new franchise, rather than moving one from an existing market.
“We would like to keep all our teams where they are,” he said.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t sound too enthusiastic about playing for a team based in Europe, however.
“That would be challenging,” Brady said. “But I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
The league is also eyeing the possibility of having a team in Los Angeles again – especially after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week allowing the construction of a 75,000-seat stadium that developers hope will lure an NFL team back to the Los Angeles area.
“I think there are some positive developments going on there,” Goodell said. “But now we have to figure out how to pay for it. And in our economic system, that is a big challenge. It’s at least an $800 million stadium.”
He would not venture a guess as to what would come first – a team in London or Los Angeles.
“I don’t know about the timing as far as the sequence,” he said. “I would tell you that both markets are of tremendous interest to us.”