Don’t be surprised if you hear some members of the St. Louis Rams speaking with English accents in the next couple of years or becoming quite fond of fish and chips. This is because the NFL team has committed to playing a regular-season game at Wembley Stadium in London, England in each of the next three seasons. They’ll basically become London’s home team during that time and will face the New England Patriots in their first contest on Oct. 28. Their opponents haven’t been chosen yet for the games in 2013 and 2014.
It might not come as a big shock to NFL insiders since Rams owner Stan Kroenke spends quite a bit of time in Jolly old England since he’s also the majority shareholder of London’s Arsenal F.C, of the English Premier Soccer League. The decision means the Rams will lose out on one home game per season over the next three years while they’re playing in London.
Kroenke released a statement that said the NFL’s popularity is growing in both London and other major European markets. He said he’d like the Rams to play a role in the growth and promotion of the league and feels this is an excellent way to do it. The game against New England will be the sixth NFL contest held in London, but it will also be the only there next year even though it was rumored there might be a second game added ad Wembley.
Alistair Kirkwood, who’s the managing director for the NFL in Britain, said that 2012 is going to be a very competitive and busy place for sports in Britain because the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are going to be held there this summer. He said the NFL wanted to concentrate on the Rams as more or less being Britain’s home team for the time being and didn’t think they should add a second game at Wembley next season.
He added that the league still wants to play more games in Europe and they will be scheduled when it feels the time is right. Their chance will come since the NFL has agreed to play at least one regular season game in London for each of the next five years. League commissioner Roger Goodell also hopes that Britain will one day have its own NFL franchise. However, British fans won’t have one of the league’s elite teams to cheer for. The Rams have won just 15 games over the past five seasons and finished this year with a 2-14 record, which was the worst in the league and shared with the Indianapolis Colts. The club also recently fired coach Steve Spagnuolo and replaced him with Jeff Fisher.
The NFL played its first game in London back in 2007 when the New York Giants edged the Miami Dolphins by a 13-10 score. Since then, a total of seven other NFL franchises have played in England, with Tampa Bay playing there twice. Next season’s game will also be New England’s second visit as they beat Tampa 35-7 back in 2009. Tampa played there this season as well and dropped a 24-18 decision to the Chicago Bears in October. It was the first NFL game in London that didn’t sell out.
Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots said he’s excited about the trip, especially since his club won’t be giving up a home game. He said the Patriots have a pretty big fan base in Britain and it’s actually like playing an extra home game for his team.