NFL Head of Europe and UK Brett Gosper says it is possible teams could explore opportunities to play in other locations across Britain, but adds it will take ‘meticulous investigation’ in order for prospective stadiums to meet the logistical requirements.
All 28 International Series games to come to the UK since 2007 have been played in the capital, with Wembley Stadium having hosted the first 15 out of its 23 in total.
Twickenham Stadium played stage to three between 2016 and 2017, before the multi-purpose Tottenham Hotspur Stadium made its debut as a ready-made NFL venue with two games upon its opening in 2019.
The latter is now set to accommodate the NFL’s return to the UK in 2021 after a year away due to the coronavirus pandemic when the Atlanta Falcons take on the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars face the Miami Dolphins in October.
But with the rapid growth of the game across the British Isles, amplified by record Super Bowl viewing figures upwards of four million, there is the increasingly prominent question as to whether the NFL can and whether it will move into other cities.
“It’s certainly possible,” Gosper told reporters from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. “I don’t know the likelihood of that but it’s certainly possible that it could happen. London doesn’t have a monopoly, well it does currently I guess in that to have a field and a stadium that meets the requirements of an NFL game there aren’t too many in the country that can do that.
“This (the Spurs stadium) happens to be a purpose-built one in many ways, Tottenham doubles as a real NFL field which is exciting. The four teams coming out in October have never played here and the ones that have had said it’s like playing an NFL game in a top NFL stadium and of course Wembley and Twickenham satisfied those arrangements.
“In other parts of the country you would have to do some meticulous investigation to make sure that was possible for all of the things that are an NFL event, not just on the field but around it, the tailgate, everything that is part of laying on a show that the NFL lays on. It is very possible though.
“Some owners may have affinities with different regions other than London so they may wish to take their team there.”
The Glazer family currently own both Manchester United and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stan Kroenke owns Arsenal and the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers recently increased their stake in Leeds United, introducing the likes of Old Trafford and Elland Road as just a couple of examples of possible destinations outside of London should the respective parties wish to unite their business interests in some way.
“We’re not confronted with that situation but I think you’ve got to be open-minded about these things,” added Gosper. “No issue in principal with taking the game around the UK of course, if that’s something an owner wanted to do with their home game you’d have to consider that very seriously.”
Germany has also emerged as a growth market for the NFL to explore alongside the UK and Mexico in light of the sport’s popularity following the days of NFL Europe, which saw five German teams compete in the league between 1991 and 2007.
From 2022 teams are set to be permitted to pursue their own international marketing deals outside of the usual 75-mile radius, forwarding the prospect of clubs negotiating games in other venues and countries.
“While at the moment the Jags have this great relationship with London fans and Wembley, and we would hope that continues, there’s nothing stopping teams deciding on their own back that they’ll play some home games in London if that’s a market that they’re targeting or even in Germany,” continued Gosper.
“As far as Germany is concerned we’re going to look at the viability and attractiveness of playing a game as part of those four designated International Series games over the next period. We’ll know a bit more about that in the coming months.
“Obviously it’s as big a market in many ways as the United Kingdom, you’ve got a 19 million fan base in Germany and 16 million here and certainly on all sorts of other criteria, Super Bowl scores, merchandise and all the rest of it, Germany actually overtakes the United Kingdom in a number of areas so it’s a big growing market and still growing quite significantly.
“We think in general it’s a very attractive proposition to have a game in Germany. The right way of putting it on, the viability, the hosting model, all of that needs to be examined and we’re working on that at the moment and we’ll have more news on that in a month or two.”
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Gosper believes that teams displaying an intent to expand their commercial aspirations beyond their traditional markets is a positive sign in regards to the continued growth of the International Series.
When it comes to Germany’s potential as a host nation, the UK’s ability to maximise the NFL as a permanent fixture on its sporting landscape can serve as a blueprint of sorts.
“The UK provides a model in many areas and a lot of success in the UK and some of the failures in the past will help us get to a very good spot and propose a model in Germany that should be very workable,” explained Gosper.
“We have to make sure the stadia is right, the sizing, there are a hell of a lot of logistics and scale required of a host for the games themselves.
“We’ll be looking for partners that can help us with legacy and community and not just being an event that happens once a year but being something that has a presence throughout the year. You’d be looking for a deep relationship with one of the cities and regions in Germany.”
Gosper noted that the NFL are planning for full capacity crowds during this year’s two London fixtures, with Wembley already targeting a minimum of 50 per cent for July’s Euro 2020 final.
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