The NFL continues to strengthen its commitment to spreading the appeal of America's most popular sport beyond the borders of the United States.
After a successful regular-season debut in the United Kingdom last October, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today a multi-year commitment to play a limited number of NFL regular-season games in the U.K. on an annual basis.
Commissioner Goodell has endorsed the recent recommendation of two ownership committees (Business Ventures and International) to play at least one game in the U.K. in each of the next three years. The league previously announced on January 17 that a regular-season game would be played in the U.K. in 2008. Today, Commissioner Goodell confirmed that the New Orleans Saints will host the San Diego Chargers at London's Wembley Stadium on October 26. There also will be at least one regular-season game in the U.K. in 2009 and 2010, Commissioner Goodell said.
NFL ownership has also approved a Buffalo Bills initiative to play one regular-season home game in Toronto, Canada in each of the next five seasons. More information on the Bills' plans to expand their fan base to the north will be announced by the team next week.
With these two decisions, NFL owners are again demonstrating their commitment to international growth through long-term decisions to play in specific markets.
"Playing a limited number of regular-season games internationally will help build and grow an already passionate international fan base," Commissioner Goodell said. "The games will strengthen our partnerships with broadcasters and sponsors. The ownership resolution to play regular-season games internationally has evolved to focus on markets, including the U.K. and Canada, where playing games on a regular basis significantly adds to the broad appeal of our sport."
The Chargers and Saints are teams with recent playoff success and they are eager to play in front of the enthusiastic fans in the U.K.
"This is a unique and exciting opportunity for our team and we are very proud to represent our region and our great fans when we travel to the United Kingdom in late October," said New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. "The national and international exposure that our team, our city and our state will receive will be unprecedented. The league has been playing overseas since the 1980s and last year was the first regular-season game in Europe, featuring the Giants and Dolphins. The Giants used that game as a springboard to their Super Bowl run and I hope we are as successful."
In 2006, NFL owners approved a five-year plan to play a limited number of regular-season games outside the United States. The series kicked off in London on October 28, 2007 when the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins 13-10 before a sellout crowd of 81,176 at Wembley Stadium.
"We're proud to be chosen," said Chargers president Dean Spanos. "This is another positive step in the effort to globalize our great sport. It's an opportunity for the NFL to show off two of its marquee teams and some of its best players. In particular, it's going to be good exposure for the Chargers, our players and our city and another opportunity for our team to grow together. We're looking forward to it."