The St. Louis Rams will play a home game in London, England versus the New England Patriots in the 2012 NFL regular season, that according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, citing unnamed league sources.
The NFL has made playing a regular season game abroad in London an annual event. In 2011, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers "hosted" the Chicago Bears there.
According to an official press release from the St. Louis Rams website, the Rams will also play in Wembley Stadium in 2013 and 2014, a similar setup to that of the Buffalo Bills, who now play annually in Toronto, Canada.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has shared discussions with several teams about the possibility of playing consistently in London at least once per year to help expand the NFL brand overseas.
Goodell has stated that doing so could be:
very powerful and lead us to what we ultimately would like to do—have a franchise here in London.
Although Goodell was clearly looking towards expansion rather than moving an existing NFL team when making those remarks, those comments nonetheless send shivers down the spines of anxious St. Louis Rams fans who are already nervous about impending lease negotiations that could free the Rams of its obligation to the city after the 2014 season, particularly after the recent comments by owner Stan Kroenke.
In 2010, Goodell spoke at length about the Rams future in St. Louis amidst the process of the franchise ultimately being sold to then minority owner of the team, Kroenke.
The NFL has agreed to play at least one regular season game in London through 2016 so it is possible, if reports are true, that the Rams may eventually agree to play there throughout the duration of that commitment.
As initial rumors and reports of a potential Rams regular season game spread to various fan forums last night, widespread disappointment regarding the possibility of losing a home game to London was expressed.
On the other hand, a few fans showed open-mindedness to the idea as they discussed the possibility of flying into England to watch the Rams play a "home" game there.
In my view, with lease negotiations regarding the home stadium yet to be resolved, this is not the right time to be playing regular season "home games" in another city, particularly one where Kroenke owns another team, Arsenal of the English Premier League (soccer).
Then again, maybe Kroenke feels this adds leverage to the aforementioned lease negotiations that commence on February 1 when major upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome are required.
This lease was agreed to by the city of St. Louis in 1995 as part of the agreement that brought the Rams to Missouri from Los Angeles.
Although vague in detail, it technically requires the Edward Jones Dome to be in the top 25 percent of stadiums. The Rams, however, have been on record stating that the top 25 percent clause is not what they are focused upon.
Interestingly, as the Rams play home games in London each year through 2014, they could potentially, as pointed out above, escape St. Louis after that same year.
I maintain my stance that the Rams will work it out in St. Louis and maintain their home in the Gateway City.
In the meantime, as has long been the case with the St. Louis Rams, they may not always be good but they are never boring.
Off the field, that is.