With the Raiders and Dolphins set to play the first of this season’s three NFL games in London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday, the league is increasing its push to introduce an NFL franchise across the Atlantic, as Albert Breer of the NFL Network writes. The league’s international chief, Mark Waller, tells Breer that he believes the NFL remains on track to have a team permanently in place in London within the next decade.
“When we started (with the International Series in 2007), I reckoned it’d take 15 years to do it,” Waller said. “That was what I expected, and we’re still on course. We’re at the midpoint now.”
According to Waller, he and the league has been subtly testing the London market and fan base for the last several years, with an eye toward putting a franchise there full-time. After increasing the number of games per year in London from one to two, and now to three, Waller’s experimenting is now expected to become increasingly more deliberate.
“I’m less focused on going from three (games) to four, four to five, five to six,” Waller said. “Can we do back-to-back games? Will the surface hold up? Can we start sending teams there without the bye attached? It’s not about the number anymore. … We’re at a place now where if we continue to do the job with the fans, the fan base will grow, and we’ll be able to have a team (in London). The questions now are logistical.”
Although the NFL still has a long way to go before a team in Europe becomes a reality, Waller tells Breer that the London market is just a jumping-off point for the sort of growth the league hopes to experience globally. In the longer-term, using the longer template somewhere else in Europe or Latin America – perhaps Germany or Brazil – is a goal for the NFL.
For now though, the league continues to focus on London, and this year’s trio of games, starting with this Sunday’s Oakland/Miami contest, will be another key stepping stone as the NFL works toward establishing its first international franchise.