NFL Approves London Games for Jaguars, Falcons and Raiders in 2014
The NFL will continue to expand its global reach next season, as commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Tuesday the league will host a trio of regular-season games at London's Wembley Stadium in 2014.
NFL.com Ian Rapoport later shared the three "home" teams that will travel to England next year:
NFL approves 3 London games for 2014. Home teams: Jags, Falcons, and Raiders.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 8, 2013
NFL.com offered a statement from Goodell, who hopes to build on the rapid growth in popularity of American football overseas:
Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more. Both of this year's games in London sold out quickly. The fan enthusiasm for our sport continues to grow. By playing two games in the UK this year, we are creating more fans. We hope that with three games in London next year we will attract even more people to our game.
The International Series, featuring regular-season games at Wembley Stadium, has been around since 2007 and is under contract through at least 2016, per NFL.com. Next year will mark the first season that three regular-season games will be played overseas.
A crowd of 83,518 fans attended this year's Week 4 matchup at Wembley, when the Minnesota Vikings handed the Pittsburgh Steelers a 34-27 loss. The Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers are slated to face off on Oct. 27 in the second and final game of the 2013 International Series.
Judging from the reactions of players who made the most recent trip across the pond, the experience offers challenges and benefits. Understandably, the Vikings were feeling a bit jet-lagged upon reaching London, with safety Harrison Smith telling USA Today's Tom Pelissero, "I didn't realize how much (the sleep deprivation) would affect recovery from the previous game. I don't care how much treatment they give us. Nothing beats sleep."
Overall, it looks like a smart move for the NFL to embolden its international presence. Despite the league's monumental popularity in the United States, the league is light years behind other leagues like European soccer, MLB, the NBA and NHL when it comes to a global player pool and fanbase.
Do you like the International Series?
Football across the pond is nothing new for the Jaguars, who have embraced the International Series under new owner Shahid Khan, who is also the owner of English Premier League soccer club Fulham. The Jaguars have agreed to play one game in London in each of the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, per NFL.com's report.
Sitting at 0-5 this year, last place in the AFC South, Jacksonville is currently in the midst of a rebuild and is trying to establish some identity. The franchise has struggled to get fans to come to games for several seasons, resorting to free beer giveaways in recent weeks. Rumors have suggested the Jaguars could eventually move to London.
For their part, Wembley Stadium officials have been receptive to hosting an NFL franchise and also are interested in featuring the Super Bowl sometime.
The Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, feature a pair of Brits on the roster in defensive lineman Jack Crawford and offensive tackle Menelik Watson. It will mark the first time in both Raiders and Atlanta Falcons franchise history that they play a regular-season game outside of the United States.
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