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NFL owners have voted to expand their international agenda up until 2016. In their annual fall meeting in Houston, the owners approved a resolution to continue playing regular season games in the United Kingdom. The resolution would allow a team to voluntarily play in the UK and that game would count as a home game.
This would be subject to changes depending on the continual popularity of the sport and the amount of teams volunteering for the opportunity. The Resolution was approved initially in 2006, and the first game was played on October 28th 2007, a game played between the New York giants and Miami Dolphins.
Since then there has been 3 more games played outside of the U.S. The next game on the agenda is set to be played between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 23rd this year.
According to the NFL, this approach towards expanding interest in the UK has paid off thus far, increasing the fan base by up to 32% over the past 2 years and bringing the overall fan base of the league close to 11 million. Also, Sunday viewership of games has grown tremendously according to the league office and the Super Bowl audience every year has increased 74% since the program began in 2006.
Chris Parsons, NFL Vice President of International affairs states that it would be better for the league to send the same team every year in order to raise the fan base of that particular team — as their fan base increase so would the fan base of the league. The NFL is attempting to make American Football popular overseas, mainly the UK.
It is the same blueprint laid out by the NBA and commissioner David Stern in their attempt to expand worldwide in markets like China and everywhere else possible. The NBA markets its players while the NFL is marketing the product itself, in hopes that the game will catch on and their love of the players will follow.
An NFL franchise in the United Kingdom is unlikely but the popularity continues to grow. The problem with this expansion plan though is the actual teams that will have to play these games — most teams will not want to travel to the UK twice in one season diminishing their chances of winning a Super Bowl in order to appeal to UK fans.
Commissioner Goodell made it clear that although the game is growing well, don’t look for a team to move to the UK; there will be no UK-base NFL team anytime soon.