The NFL has increased its overseas involvement heavily in recent years, but that could just be the tip of the iceberg.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he believes that the league could place a team in London by the end of the decade, and we're clearly not that far away from that date.
Bob Kraft says @NFL 'should work very hard' to have a team in London before the decade ends.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) July 17, 2014
Here's the full quotation from Kraft:
"I can see the kind of reception we got there," Kraft said, per NFL.com, of the Patriots' visit to England in 2012. "... I would not be disappointed, and I would also believe that we should work hard to try and have a franchise in London before the decade was out."
NFL commish Roger Goodell says he has a similar timeframe in mind.
“We couldn’t be happier with what we’re seeing,” Goodell said on NFL Network, via Pro Football Talk. “We actually couldn’t be more surprised by the tremendous demand for NFL football in London, in the UK in general and, frankly, in Europe. So it’s not something that I think is 15 or 20 years away. It could be five or 10 years away.”
The shift in the NFL's game plan for wordly expansion came when the league went from hosting preseason games to regular-season contests in London. After two overseas NFL games in 2013, this season will feature a record three regular-season contests: Raiders-Dolphins in Week 4, Falcons-Lions in Week 8 and Jaguars-Cowboys in Week 10. Expect even more games added in 2015, which eventually could lead to a team landing there permanently.
“The fans want to see more NFL football, and they want to see the real thing,” Goodell said. “They don’t want to see the ‘friendlies’ as they call them over there, which is preseason games. So we changed our strategy eight years ago and said, ‘Let’s play regular-season games.’ And our clubs have responded very favorably. They’ve enjoyed the experience. So we’re anxious to do more of it.
"I see us continuing to play more games there, to focus on our television coverage there and expanding that, our other business efforts including licensing and sponsorship."
The natural question that follows: expansion or relocation? A lot might depend on the Los Angeles situation and whether a team such as the Oakland Raiders might consider moving there. Goodell previously has suggested that if the NFL chooses to expand from 32 teams, it would do so by two. If that were the case, we may be talking about the London Monarchs and Los Angeles Hipsters, and not teams such as the Raiders, Chargers or Rams leaving their current digs.
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