By Barry Janoff
December 13, 2016: In its ongoing effort to bring American football to the masses in the U.K. — and potentially set the stage for a future franchise or Super Bowl there — the NFL has expanded its schedule to include four games in London in 2017.
That would be the most in one season since the NFL began to play regular season games with the inception of the London Games Series — now known as the NFL International Series — in 2007.
The eight teams, named today, that will play there in 2017 are:
• Baltimore Ravens vs Jacksonville Jaguars Wembley Stadium (9-24 or 10-1)
• New Orleans Saints v Miami Dolphins Wembley (9-24 or 10-1)
• Minnesota Vikings v Cleveland Browns Twickenham Stadium (10-22 or 10-29)
• Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Twickenham (10-22 or 10-29)
Times are TBD. The NFL is said to be considering pushing back start times in London so the games do not begin at 9 AM EDT/6 AM PDT in the U.S., as they have been.
The Jaguars will play a home game in London for the fifth consecutive season. The Dolphins will play their fourth regular-season game in London. First-timers are Baltimore, Cleveland and Arizona.
"We are honored to once again represent the NFL on a global level and help grow the game of football," Mark Wilf, owner-president for the Vikings, which played in London against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, said in a statement. "This is a unique opportunity to continue highlighting the Vikings brand on an international stage and to give our fans around the world another opportunity to see their favorite team up close."
"This is a good opportunity for the Ravens and we are very excited about playing a game in London," team president Dick Cass said in a statement regarding the Raven’s first International Series game. "We hope to see many of our fans at Wembley Stadium in London."
The NFL said that at the conclusion of the 2017 season, 27 teams would have played in London since 2007. The remaining five would be the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.
The league played one game a season in the U.K. from 2007-2012, added a second game in 2013 and a third in 2014.
In 2017, the NFL is also scheduling its second consecutive game in Estadio Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders (date TBD) following this season’s Monday Night Football game (ESPN) there between the Raiders and the Houston Texans, which drew a crowd of 76,473.
London fans are not necessarily getting the best the NFL has to offer. Jacksonville (2-11), Cleveland (0-13) and Los Angeles (4-9) are a combined 6-33 as of Dec. 12.
The league remains gung-ho on U.K. development based on several key factors.
Since 2007, when the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins, 13-10, in front of 81,176 fans in Wembley, the NFL said that Sunday viewership in the U.K. of NFL games “has more than doubled and the Super Bowl audience has increased more than 75%.”
This season, the NFL said it is on pace to reach a record number of unique TV viewers in the U.K.
in addition, the league said it has "developed new and stronger business partnerships and, according to internal research, has a U.K. fan base of more than 13 million, including close to four million avid fans."
NFL U.K. partners include Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Hyundai, Pepsi Max, Discover Los Angeles, Microsoft, Marriott Rewards, Papa John’s, Virgin Atlantic, Visa, Bose and Thomas Cook Sport and New York Bakery Co.
"We continue to be incredibly excited by the passion and love for the NFL shown by our millions of U.K. fans."
"London staging a fourth NFL game is fantastic news — not only for the millions of sports fans who get to enjoy our iconic stadiums — but also because it confirms our status as the go-to choice for hosting the world’s biggest sporting events," London mayor Sadiq Khan, said in a statement. "London is the international home of the NFL and staging the equivalent of what would be half an American football team’s home games in the city is a huge step towards my ambition of bringing a franchise to the capital."
The NFL and local partners are also empowered by the fact that American football is now an officially recognized sport in U.K. universities and schools.
According to the NFL, "Participation in amateur football in the U.K., has risen by approximately 15% per year since 2007, with the latest figures from Sport England showing that 40,000 people age 14 or older play regularly."
"We continue to be incredibly excited by the passion and love for the NFL shown by our millions of U.K. fans," NFL commissioner Roger Goodall said in a statement. "London is an amazing city. We have had tremendous support from our fans, from Mayor Khan and other government leaders and business partners, and we are looking forward to taking the next step in the U.K. by playing four games in London next season."
Of the 17 games (featuring 26 teams) played in the U.K. since 2007, 15 have attracted crowds in excess of 81,000, with a high of 84,448 this past Oct. 30 when the Washington Redskins played the Cincinnati Bengals.
Back to Home Page