Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 2/17/13
The National Football League truly is a global phenomenon now.To prove this they have agreed to play not one, but two games in London this year. A really big commitment from them.This though should come as no real surprise given the appetite for the sport in the United Kingdom.As soon as the announcement was made as to who was coming over to play in the games and the dates were confirmed, fans up and down the country and in Europe started to plan their weekend.Ticket sales were a booming success and it wasn’t very long before both games at Wembley Stadium were sold out.The International Series of games, as it is known, has been an annual date on the UK sporting calendar now since 2007.That was the first time a regular season game was played here, the two teams competing, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, are amongst the most popular teams here. It made good marketing sense to send over to teams that have good support, but in hindsight the League could have sent over two very average teams and had the luxury of knowing that Wembley Stadium could have been sold out many times over.The hunger for the game is such that for each year since then the marketing guru’s in the NFL haven’t had to try hard to “sell” the game.Before the birth of the International Series, there was a period of time during the mid-1980s for a decade after that the league would send teams to the UK during preseason. It had the appeal of course.The sport was booming so the opportunity for its growth was plain for all to see. In 1986 the then Super Bowl champions came over and played the Dallas Cowboys in front of 86,000 fans. That’s when everyone knew the sport was here to stay.The years after saw many different teams come over and the even though the interest was still there support did start to dwindle. Until in the end the plug was pulled in 1993. That is as far as London was concerned.The NFL wanted to pursue other countries to cement its global reach. Games were to be held in Barcelona, Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. Berlin, Germany. Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico. Dublin, Ireland. Vancouver, Canada, and in Sydney, Australia.This continued all the way through to 2005. Each time the games were met with huge crowds attending games. The first regular season NFL game played outside the United States was held on October 2, 2005 at the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City before an NFL regular-season record of 103,467 fans. The Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers.Currently there are 32 teams in the NFL based all across the country. Strangely there isn’t one in one of the most populated cities, and sports mad regions. Los Angeles. The reason I mention this is because it seems just a matter of time before an expansion of the league is put forward. Off the back of all the International Series sell-outs it would seem that London is being groomed as a potential site for an expansion team. Having just one team would not fit so a second city would surely be invited and Los Angeles would be perfect. In its current format the games over here work. One or two games a year works in serving the fans and quenching their thirst for the sport. Would an expansion team over here work?See Part Two of the article here.
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