Is the NFL Really Considering London as a Super Bowl Host?

Don QuixoteContributor IMay 4, 2009

LONDON - OCTOBER 26: A general view during the Bridgestone International Series NFL match between San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium on October 26, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Harding - Pool/Getty Images)

The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday that London officials have “received assurances from the NFL that...there is a commitment to bring the championship game to the capital in 2014.” The paper also said that an announcement will be made within the next 12 months.

The report comes a week after Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of events, told the BBC, “We have had very substantive conversations with the city of London on what it would take for them to host it, what it would take for us to bring it there,” but added that specifics have only been discussed “superficially.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell immediately denied that the NFL was considering awarding the Super Bowl to an international city. The Telegraph then wrote that Goodell’s denial was nothing but “a ploy to persuade the league’s franchise owners that any such move would not be rushed.”

Following the recent report, the NFL again issued a denial. Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of corporate communications, wrote on Twitter, “Re: story from UK. We are not pursuing idea of putting a Super Bowl in London or anywhere outside US. Reports last week/today inaccurate.”

But in spite of the denials by the NFL, Goodell himself has said that holding a Super Bowl in London is a long-term possibility. In 2007, he told reporters, “There’s a great deal of interest in holding a Super Bowl in London. So we’ll be looking at that.”

The NFL, in its attempt to expand its international appeal, has staged two regular season games at London’s new Wembley Stadium, and a third game is scheduled for next year. The events have been received enthusiastically by British fans, as tickets for all three games have sold out.

The NFL is currently considering adding a 17th game to the regular season, which would allow more games to be played abroad.

“That’s been one of the appealing features of converting preseason games into regular-season games...it gives you more inventory, more games that you can take to neutral sites, either internationally or domestically,” said Goodell, who will reportedly present the owners with a plan for an expanded schedule this month.

Article originally published at findingDulcinea

The NFL has held exhibition games outside the United States as far back as 1950, and in total more than 60 games involving NFL teams have been played abroad. The NFL held its first game outside North America in 1976 when it held a game in Tokyo, and in 1986 it started the American Bowl, an annual series of preseason games held internationally.

Between 1986 and 2005, the NFL staged 40 American Bowl games in Tokyo, London, Berlin, several other cities in Europe, Canada, and Mexico. In 2005, the NFL held its first regular-season game outside the United States when the Cardinals and 49ers played in front of an NFL-record 103,467 fans in Mexico City.

The NFL operated a professional league with European-based teams between 1991 and 2007. The league, known as the WLAF, NFL Europe, and lastly NFL Europa, was moderately successful but was disbanded in 2007 as part of a shift in marketing strategy.

“The NFL has determined that it will switch the focus of its international business strategy to presenting the NFL to the widest possible global audience, including broader media visibility and the staging of international regular-season games,” read an NFL press release.

That same year the NFL staged its first regular-season game in London, attracting a sell-out crowd of over 80,000. The game showed that Britain had an appetite for American football and encouraged the NFL to host an annual game in London.

The NFL has also allowed the Buffalo Bills to play a preseason and regular-season game in Toronto each year between 2008 and 2012. Many have speculated that the series is the first step toward moving the Bills to Toronto, but team and NFL officials have denied that such a move is being discussed.

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Article originally published at findingDulcinea

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