The NFL has flirted with the idea of placing a team in either Los Angeles, and more recently London, for years now. Commissioner Roger Goodell just cranked up the flirtation into an informal courting.
Goodell said Saturday, courtesy of ESPN.com, at a forum for European NFL fans that the NFL is interested in landing in both cities, and he has no preference which one might land a franchise first.
"It doesn't matter," Goodell said. "I'd love to be back in Los Angeles, but it has to be done the right way, we have to do it successfully. ...
"I want both [cities], but it doesn't matter which one is first."
This is a slight elevation from something Goodell said as recently as two weeks ago. At the league's fall meeting, Goodell said it was not the league's objective to place a franchise full-time in London but that the NFL hoped to "continue the growth of our game internationally.
"[Y]ou could view it as a potential home city but a lot would have to happen before that could take place,” Goodell said.
[Photos: NFL fan rally attracts 70,000 in London]
That said, Goodell hedged a bit by saying there is no timetable for London at this point and that an overseas Super Bowl only would happen if a franchise is placed there.
"We don't have a timetable for (a London franchise). We want to continue building interest, and if it continues to go well we believe a franchise could be here. The Super Bowl won't be played anywhere where we don't have a franchise," Goodell said on Saturday.
"Right now, our focus is on the U.K. since the European fans can get here. We want to build on our success here, and whether it leads to a permanent franchise or not, then we can see. What happens here will dictate that."
There seems to be support among NFL owners for a team across the pond. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, while his team played in the U.K. last season, told fans he thought it was time for a team there.
And just this week, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones echoed the thought but added an interesting wrinkle: Jones believes London could be an expansion location for a team.
“The look-see [in London] is to see if a segment of people in Britain can make it their team. In other words, can they buy into NFL and can they buy into the pride and support a franchise?” Jones said on Dallas' 105.3 The Fan, via CBS DFW. “London could be an expansion for the NFL. I like the idea. It adds a lot of ‘wow’ to the NFL.”
Wow is right. The common belief has been that the NFL would consider London, but only as a relocation — with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Anglophile team owner Shad Khan often mentioned as the most likely possibility. The Jaguars are playing the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday at London's Wembley Stadium.
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The NFL will expand from two games in London this season to three games in 2014. The sport has increased in popularity in London, and the games have been sellouts in recent years.
The NFL hasn't had a franchise in Los Angeles since 1995, despite it being the No. 2 TV market in the nation. Jones even suggested this summer that L.A. is big enough to have two NFL teams.
A lot of talk on the matter, but it will be years before any of this likely happens. Still, there's a lot more movement toward that end than ever before.
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