Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 10/27/11

Wembley, England saw the NFL hold its annual International Series game this weekend, the matchup saw the 3-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the 3-3 Chicago Bears. The Bears survived a late 4th quarter drive from Josh Freeman to take the 4-3 record and win 24-18.

The fact that this game was able to go ahead given all the off field problems the NFL faced this summer shows the want and need for the NFL in the United Kingdom. This game was announced on April 18th 2011, however due to the lockout, tickets for the game were only released on general sale on the 11th of September, 8 months later than previous years. The NFL still managed to seat 76,981, which was slightly short of attendance on previous years, full credit went to organisers and fans alike.

The NFL announced this month the extension of the International Series through to 2016, with the potential for multiple games in different venues past 2013. There is a call for the NFL to play numerous games in Europe in the coming season, with Germany and Ireland being touted as potential venues, but right now the NFL seems set on Wembley Stadium.

The reason Wembley continually gets the games is purely logistical. For a team to give up one of their home games a season, they want to know that they’re going to have minimal disruption to their preparations whilst maximising their experience. Playing in London offers that exactly. It’s the Capital city, it has tried and tested practice facilities for home and away teams, its exceptional transport links allow fans from all over the country to visit, and the Wembley venue itself is capable of hosting a regular season game.

The issues arise when the NFL look at other venues. Many soccer stadiums in the UK are too narrow to hold a game, as the added requirements for the team’s sidelines and cameras are not required in the English game. Manchester United, owned by the Glazer family play their games at Old Trafford, the 76,000 seater stadium, has a large enough capacity to host a game but does not meet the structural requirements.

Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the US ambassador to Ireland, has stated his interest in allowing the Steelers to return to Ireland, the black and gold played in the lacklustre “American Bowl” in Ireland in 97. Ben Roethlisberger had this to say recently

”I think it would be fun to go play in Ireland where Ambassador Rooney is. That would be kind of fun.”

A game played in Germany seems to make some logical sense, the game is huge over there and the experimental “NfL Europa” ended with 5 out of the 6 league teams being German (the Hamburg Sea Devils won the last ever “World Bowl”). German stadiums are purposely built for football with  a potential return could be on the cards.

The future of the NFL in the UK for the time being seems to be secure, whilst there are still no plans to make a expansion team in London, Roger Goodell continues to maintain the importance of expanding the NFL’s international presence. With over 70 senior teams in the UK and 56 collegiate teams, participation and interest rates continue to grow.

If games continue to be as successfully as Sunday and interest continues to rise in the UK domestic game, there is no reason why multiple regular season games should not be played in London as early as next season. As for moving the games around other venues and countries, I think the NFL have to be careful as a repeat of the travelling “American Bowl” fiasco will only damage the International Series reputation not enhance it.

-Duckmanton

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