The National Football League denied a BBC report early Wednesday that suggested there would be a permanent franchise in London by 2022.
Mark Long of the Associated Press reports an NFL spokesman stated the plan is "not true." The BBC reported the league "fundamentally believes" there would be an organization in the UK within the next six years.
Mark Waller, the NFL's executive vice president of international, told the BBC the fanbase in London "is big enough and passionate enough that it can support a franchise." He also stated the league could be on track to deliver on the 15-year vision that arose in 2007 (hence the 2022 projection), but he didn't provide any specifics.
Waller has previously echoed this timeline, saying in September 2014 (via Albert Breer of NFL.com): "When we started (with the series in 2007), I reckoned it'd take 15 years to do it. That was what I expected, and we're still on course. We're at the midpoint now."
In 2014, commissioner Roger Goodell noted the league "couldn't be happier" with the support the overseas games were getting, per Mike Coppinger of NFL.com. He also placed a relatively short time frame on a potential move to London.
"We actually couldn't be more surprised by the tremendous demand for NFL football in London and the UK in general and frankly even Europe," Goodell said. "It's not something I think is 15 or 20 years away, it could be five or 10 years away."
The Jacksonville Jaguars have most often been linked to a potential move to Europe after playing a game at Wembley Stadium each of the past three years. Owner Shahid Khan, who also owns English soccer team Fulham, has downplayed the idea in the past, though.
Another team that could enter the London spotlight is the Oakland Raiders. They were one of three teams seeking the opportunity to move to Los Angeles before the NFL chose the St. Louis Rams, with the San Diego Chargers holding the first chance to join them, as Sports Illustrated noted.
Ultimately, there are a lot of details to work out before a move to London could become reality. Not only in terms of finding a franchise to make the switch, but also working out the logistics to make the schedule work without being overly taxing on the players.
The league clearly doesn't want a definitive timetable out there quite yet. But it wouldn't be a surprise if the London situation does begin to heat up over the next five years.
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