The NFL remains intent on gauging whether or not a franchise could function as a full-time London operation. To measure this, the league wants a team to play in multiple London games during a season.
NFL executive VP of international Mark Waller said more games coming to London in subsequent seasons, with as many as eight regular-season contests potentially on tap for England in the near future. Along with that, Waller told CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora he would like to see a team play in more than one England contest in a season.
“I’d like to do both of those. I don’t think you have to go four games, five games, six games, seven games, eight games,” Waller said, indicating the league could soon see a multi-game jump for future London itineraries instead of a one-game increase like this season brought.
“I think we’ve shown by the strength of the foundation that the demand is there, and I definitely think you could play across a full season [eight regular-season “home” games] and slate the games and I definitely agree you’d want to see a team coming over and playing two or even three games, and then going back to the States and seeing how that works.”
Waller, though, told Albert Breer of SI.com an increase beyond four London games is unlikely to occur next season. But it’s clear bigger plans are in the works.
As far as the effort to simulate a team playing in London full-time, Waller said he would like to see a team play in England in back-to-back weeks. He appears to envision that happening this decade.
“I don’t think you could expect a team to travel backwards and forwards every week,” Waller said, via La Canfora. “So we’d like to see what it’s like to play here back-to-back weekends, and I’m sure we’ll get to that in the next couple of years.”
Winners over the Ravens on Sunday, the Jaguars lead the pack in terms of London participation. They’ve played an England game in each of the past five seasons. And Waller expects the team to extend its agreement — one that stipulates the franchise plays at least one game in London per season — past 2020. Naturally, this would lead to speculation the Jags would be the guinea pigs for the multi-London-game experiment and loom as the franchise most likely to relocate to England down the road.
“Obviously, they’ve still got three years to run on that agreement,” Waller told La Canfora, “and I’m sure after this year we’ll start the conversation there. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t want to continue. It’s worked, I think, incredibly well for them in London, and I believe it’s really helped the city of Jacksonville gain visibility and exposure, and even inward investment into Jacksonville as a result, and it’s work fantastically for us. So I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t an extension to that arrangement at a minimum.”
Regarding a potential timetable for a London relocation, Waller told Breer the goal when the NFL began the International Series in 2007 was to have a team stationed in London by 2022. Waller believes that date remains realistic, also noting that giving the London franchise a second base of operations in the Eastern part of the U.S. would be under consideration to help with logistics.
“If the team had a second base on the East Coast, and when they came over to the States they were going back to a familiar place, there’s a general feel [among teams] that it would solve a vast number of the operational issues,” Waller said, via Breer. “Whether it’s transportation issues, talent issues and making sure week-in, week-out, you have the talent you need on hand, increasingly there’s belief that’s the right solution.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.