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Could the Super Bowl Be Headed to London?

May 04, 2009 05:00 PM
by Denis Cummings
Several British publications are reporting that the NFL may hold a Super Bowl in London as early as 2014, but the NFL has denied the reports.

NFL Reportedly Considering London as Super Bowl Host

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 says 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 writes 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 Telegraph’s 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.”

Despite 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, with a third game scheduled for next year. The games have been received enthusiastically by British fans, with tickets for all three games selling 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 is 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.

Background: The NFL’s expanding market

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 and 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.

Reference: NFL International Series


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