Found October 11, 2011 on
Fox Sports Houston:
HOUSTON -- The NFL will play regular season games in Britain until at least 2016 as it evaluates the area as a potential market for an NFL franchise, commissioner Roger Goodell said after an owners meeting Monday in Houston.
The league owners, who have sent one regular-season game to London for the last five years, voted Monday to extend that streak and is looking to expand to two games in the United Kingdom as early as next season. Goodell said several teams had expressed interest in playing in London. The NFL may initially send a small number of teams over on a rotational basis as a way of both developing and measuring European interest in the NFL.
"There's a strong feeling that would help build a fanbase of particular teams, and that might be more beneficial in the short-term to see, Can we really build the kind of fanbase that potentially could warrant a franchise at some point in time?'" Goodell said. "So we may focus a little bit more on a small number of teams going over on a consistent basis."
Whatever teams the NFL does send to the UK will be volunteers. No team can be forced to play there. Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said he wanted see the Texans play a game in Europe, but only as the visiting team. He isn't willing to give up a home game.
"I think it would be very difficult for us," he said. "I wouldn't completely rule it out. If the length of the season changed and we had an extra game or something, then it's something we could consider. It's just that, No. 1, our fans want to see us at home, and they've been very loyal and very supportive. So I'd be reluctant to do that."
That would mean Houston could play in Britain only once over the next five years. Teams volunteering to play home games there can schedule one per year for the next five seasons, whereas teams will only be allowed one opportunity as a visitor.
McNair nonetheless said his team would be among those volunteering to play in Britain as a visiting team. Goodell indicated there were enough teams interested in doing so that it wouldn't be a problem scheduling it, at least in part because there are financial incentives to doing so. In deciding who gets to go, the league will consider potential matchups and evaluate them on their marketability.
It has helped that formerly reluctant teams are now interested. The move is of particular interest to teams that struggle to sell tickets to their home stadiums.
"To date, we've had very limited opportunities, where teams haven't really come in to us," he said. "What we're seeing now is a tremendous amount of interest in doing this, and that makes it a little bit easier for us to at least have better choices."
Though the NFL has been pleased with the response to its games in London, Goodell said the league believes many of the fans who have attended those games at Wimbley Stadium have come from outside the London area. The league would consider playing games outside London, and has even discussed the possibility of playing in Germany.
According to the NFL, the games in London have grown the NFL's European fanbase 32 percent to 11 million people and increased television ratings by 91 percent.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears play in London Oct. 23 .
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