By Barry Janoff
October 7, 2015: Buoyed by growing success of its games overseas, the NFL today approved a resolution that extends the its "ability to play international regular-season games through 2025 and broadens the opportunity to play games in countries other than the United Kingdom."
Although future games were not yet unveiled, the NFL is expected to begin a series in Mexico City.
The move builds on a resolution approved in 2011 that enabled NFL to schedule international regular-season games in the U.K. through the 2016 season.
"This marks an important step in our long-term international growth," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a media event at the league's fall meeting in New York. "Fans in the U.K. have responded incredibly well to the regular-season games we have played in London since 2007. They have demanded more NFL games, and we have worked to accommodate them."
The NFL's expanding presence in the U.K. also has attracted a growing number of marketing partners.
This season, DraftKings signed a three-year deal to be aligned with the International Series, and Five Guys began working with the NFL in a multi-platform pact to include the restaurant's 30-plus locations throughout the U.K.
According to John Eckbert, CEO for Five Guys UK, “Five Guys and the NFL are a natural fit — two American brands with fanatical fan bases building cult followings in the UK."
Among the companies that are officially joined with the NFL and/or the NFL U.K. Web site are Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), Hyundai, Pepsi Max, Visa, Microsoft, Marriott, Papa John's, Virgin Atlantic, Majestic, Bose and Ion Camera.
According to a study released late last year from accounting firm Deloitte and commissioned by the NFL, having a franchise in London could generate more than $250 million annually for Great Britain. London itself could see an economic boost of $165 million per season with eight home games.
The NFL has held its current version of the International Series in London since 2007, with all games played in Wembley Stadium. The ultimate aim is to have a franchise based in London and/or play a Super Bowl there, according to industry analysts.
The most recent was this past Sunday (Oct. 4) when the New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins, 27-14, before a crowd of 83,986.
There are two more games there this season: Oct. 25 (Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars) and Nov. 1 (Detroit Lions-Kansas City Chiefs).
The Bills-Jags game will be streamed live exclusively via Yahoo!, the first NFL game to be aired via that medium.
Wembley Stadium will be the site of 14 NFL International Series games through this season.
Earlier this year, the NFL signed a ten-year pact with Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League to play a minimum of two games per year in Tottenham's currently under construction stadium, which due to open in the summer of 2018.
Of the 11 NFL games played in Wembley prior to this season, dating back to 2007, only one drew fewer than 77,000, with a high of 84,254 attending the New England Patriots-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in 2009.
"We think it's time to expand our International Series to other countries and respond to the growing interest in our game."
The three games in Wembley Stadium last season averaged 83,500.
An exhibition game played in Mexico City in August 1978 between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles in front of 30,000 fans in what is now Estadio Azul Stadium.
According to the NFL, Sunday viewership of NFL games has more than doubled and the Super Bowl audience has increased more than 75% since the start of the International Series, with the U.K. fan base topping 13 million.
Not all of the NFL's foray's overseas have been successful. The NFL in 1991 launched the World League of American Football, with ten teams competing in the U.S. and Europe, including the London Monarchs. After a two-year hiatus (1993-94), the league relaunched in 1995, then was rebooted in 1998 as NFL Europe, a six-team, all-European league.
NFL Europe folded in 2007 but was a direct ancestor to the NFL International Series.
But now, according to Goodell, "We think it's time to expand our International Series to other countries and respond to the growing interest in our game not only in the U.K., but elsewhere around the world."
Marketers, Politicians, Fans Support NFL's Plans In London
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