NFL executives have confirmed they plan to consider establishing a London franchise, though they insist that they are in no hurry to make the long-mooted proposal a reality.
American football has never had greater presence in Britain, with Wembley set to host the second of three sold out regular-season games this year on Sunday when Atlanta Falcons take on Detroit Lions.
Speculation over a possible London franchise was revived this month when it emerged that regular gridiron is being considered as an alternative revenue stream to England internationals at the national stadium after current contracts expire in 2017.
NFL senior vice-president of media Hans Schroeder told City A.M. that further fixtures and a permanent team were up for discussion if they meant further increasing the game’s popularity in Britain.
He said: “We’re really focused on making the three games we’re playing today as successful as they can be. We’re very open and flexible on the models going forward and I think we’ll look to continue opportunities we have to grow the engagement and activation in the market for our fans there, so if that means more games, if it means a team down the road – all of those things we’ll look at, but it really starts with how we continue to grow and give more opportunities to our fans to experience the NFL live in the London market.
“Our objective is to get as many fans of NFL as we can. All that has had tremendous success to date but we think there’s a lot more opportunity in front of us. So our focus is on growing that, and down the road if there are other opportunities available I’m sure we’ll look at those. But that’s down the road; right now we’re focused on continuing to create as great an environment for our fans as we can.”
NFL strengthened its offering to British fans by signing a new five-year contract with Sky Sports last month.
This weekend’s game starts at the earlier time of 1:30pm – an attempt, Schroeder said, to make it easier for the sport’s British followers from outside of London to attend. The last NFL match at Wembley takes place on 9 November when Dallas Cowboys face Jacksonville Jaguars, owned by Fulham proprietor Shad Khan.