According to media reports, the National Football League (NFL) is pondering over the addition of a UK franchise to the North American competition till 2015. The League’s UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood has stated that the NFL will finalize their decision in the middle of this decade.
The news reached new heights in Europe on Sunday, as the Chicago Bears beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18 in the latest of 5 yearly regular-season games to be played at the Wembley Stadium in London.
Even though the attendance of the match was less than 77,000, which is the lowest recorded for an ‘International Series’ to date, Kirkwood was all praise for the event organizers and declared the event to be the “best executed yet”.
“After five games here, successfully executed, you're starting to see coaches and players volunteering to come back again in the future (and) we're accepted from a sporting perspective,” Kirkwood said while talking to the Daily Mail. “We've started to build a platform to play more games here. With more games, we need to extend and expand our television coverage and fan base, but I think within three to four years, we could begin to consider (a UK-based team).”
The NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already set his plan into motion. With a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement by his side and following a lockout that delayed the sale of tickets for this year’s Wembley contest, Goodell confirmed that plans are being discussed to bring a second annual game to London. Kirkwood suggested the introduction of a second game “when the time is right”. Kirkwood also mentioned that timing was a crucial factor and that the schedule will have to be planned carefully because of the 2012 Olympics in London next year.
“We need to evaluate whether the Olympics is an opportunity or a challenge,” Kirkwood added. “The eyes of the world will be on London, so it could be a great year to intensify our efforts. Alternatively, it might be that we want to be at the forefront of the sporting calendar in a given year.” Finalizing the franchise move is still far away in the future, therefore no accurate predictions can be made about it. Kirkwood admitted time was required for its evaluation.
“You only have to look at how successful the NFL is in the United States,” Kirkwood said. “There, 13 of the 15 most-watched television programmes in the autumn schedule are NFL games. If you put the Premier League on the BBC or ITV here, you still wouldn't come close to that. You have to be absolutely sure that if you put a franchise in here, it would be completely successful.”