NFL: London’s time is close

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Richard Graves speaks with commissioner Roger Goodell about his hopes for the season and London’s NFL future, short and long-term.
With all 32 NFL teams now in Training Camp, fans and players alike are starting to dream of emulating the reigning champions, Seattle Seahawks, in Phoenix next February at Super Bowl XLIX and lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
It’s no different for the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, who is anticipating a new season as keenly as anyone.
“It’s exciting,” Goodell said.
“One of the great things about NFL football is every team has hope, every one of the teams and fans has the excitement that they’re going to win the Super Bowl trophy and every team is undefeated right now…it’s a great time of year for us.”
Goodell has been in London where, for the first time, the NFL will play three regular season games this year.
Fuelled by sell-out crowds at Wembley, the momentum behind the sport is growing at pace and the sight of half a million football fans gathered in Regent Street last September at a rally ahead of the Vikings/Steelers game has only served to encourage the NFL’s hierarchy as they explore deeper into the UK market.
“It was overwhelming quite frankly,” Goodell said.
“I wasn’t here, I was in the States and when I saw the picture of that, it hit home that there’s something very special about this market, the fans reaction to the NFL and that’s why we are so excited to continue our efforts here.
Never a better time
“We’ll be bringing back the Regent Street event, we’ll be bringing back the Trafalgar Square event along with three games this year. We’ve never had more activity in this market and there’s never been a better time to be an NFL fan in the UK.”
In September the Oakland Raiders play the Miami Dolphins at Wembley, followed by the Atlanta Falcons against the Detroit Lions in October before the Jacksonville Jaguars return to the UK in November when they’ll face the Dallas Cowboys.
So what does this growth in America’s Game mean for the prospect of a permanent UK based franchise? Well, it could happen sooner than you think…
“In the past people have looked at this as maybe decades off and I think the way the game has grown over here, the reaction that we’ve had, if it continues then this may happen at a faster timetable,” he said.
“The fans are growing very quickly, in big numbers and in really deep passion and when you see that, you want to respond to it and our owners recognise that.
“I think if we can continue to have that success and continue to build on what we’ve had already, I think it’s realistic to think that a franchise could be here.”
It’s an intriguing prospect – one with a number of logistical hurdles to overcome but that isn’t about to stop the NFL.
In 2007, they staged the first International Series game at Wembley when the Miami Dolphins met the New York Giants amid a number of dissenting voices – since then one regular season game has become three and there’s every indication that will increase further in the coming years.

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