The annual recent NFL game in London, England, which was between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, was a bad news-good news scenario. The bad news came when the British Government said it wasn’t interested in holding one or two games each year at Wembley Stadium. However, the good news was that it said they wanted their own full-time NFL franchise.
A Member of Parliament named Richard Fuller from Bedford said there’s a lot of support for the American version of football in the Westminster and London area and he has put together a group of people who would like to develop the sport in Britain at both the professional and amateur levels. He said his people will be working hand in hand with the NFL, the British American Football Association, and other groups to try and help promote the sport in Britain.
He added that they want to get kids involved in football at the grassroots level and find ways for local athletes to develop their skills in the game. But, he admitted, the thing they want the most is an NFL team to be based in the UK. He also admitted that there’s an endless amount of work to do to make it happen and one of the major obstacles will be developing a fan base that’s big enough to support a team in London.
Of course, the NFL would also have to agree to it. But so far it seems there are several owners interested in placing a team in Britain, especially with the number of Americans who are starting to invest in English Premier League soccer clubs. John York, the owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who’s also the chairman of the NFL’s International Committee, said he thinks it’s quite an ambitious plan and he doesn’t have any clue when it would happen, but feels that sooner or later there will be a team in Britain.
At the moment, it looks like if an established team is moved to England that it could be Tampa Bay as they’ve played over there a couple of times now and seem to be building up a fan base. It would be a little strange to send Tampa there each year and then end up moving somebody else. This wouldn’t sit too well with Tampa’s home fans though and it’s all conjecture at this point. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wants more teams to volunteer to play in London so the league can play at least two games a year in the English capital.
It does make a bit of sense though, considering that the Glazer Family owns the Buccaneers as well as Manchester United and have seen firsthand how powerful a franchise can become if it has a huge global following. Goodell also said the NFL plans to concentrate on England only in the near future rather than other European nations.
It looks like London will be the testing ground and if the league isn’t successful there then there’s no point in trying things out on the continent. There were 76, 981 fans at Wembley for the Bears 28-14 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 13.