NFL eyes more games in Britain
LONDON -- Fresh off a fourth straight sellout at Wembley Stadium, the NFL vice president of international business is optimistic the league will be playing multiple regular-season games in Britain.
The San Francisco 49ers rallied to beat the Denver Broncos 24-16 Sunday in the NFL's fourth regular-season game in London. And with more than 84,000 fans packed into Wembley, Chris Parsons has already started thinking of ways to keep the momentum going.
Parsons says the NFL will talk to owners in January or February about a game next year. But he says the decision could be delayed by the collective bargaining agreement talks.
"The CBA negotiation adds a level of complexity to that planning process, which we have to then manage around," Parsons said in a phone interview Tuesday. "That may require us to be a little bit patient going forward in terms of how we move that forward, but whether it's in one year or two years, we will be playing multiple games, I believe, in the U.K. market."
Eight of the league's 32 teams have been to London to play an NFL game at Wembley, home of England's national soccer team. Although the NFL has not made an announcement on 2011, at least one more game is expected.
If the opinion of the players mean anything, there will certainly be more games in the British capital.
"I though it was an honor to play in Wembley Stadium," Broncos receiver Brandon Lloyd said of the stadium that hosted the 1948 Olympics and the 1966 World Cup final. "I loved the fact that the support was strong and seems like the fans are very knowledgeable on what was going on out there on the football field."
Besides talk of adding a second game to the overseas schedule, possibly in Cardiff, Wales, or Edinburgh, Scotland, the NFL has been also been considering the prospect of creating a franchise based in London.
According to Parsons, it won't be anytime soon.
"The franchise is a nice goal and I think it's a tremendous stake in the ground and strategic vision that we can strive for, but I think we've also said there are several steps ahead of that that we'd want to make sure we get right before we made that leap," Parsons said.
Another option for the NFL is playing games in other countries, such as Germany. The country had five of the six teams in the NFL's European development league before it folded in 2007.
Although Parsons predicted that a game in Germany would be a success, he said the league was waiting for the right time.
"We've wanted to make sure that we get the blueprint for success right. I'm a strong believer in not proliferating your approach before you've figured out exactly the right steps to make it all work effectively," Parsons said. "We're right at that stage now in the U.K. where we believe we've done that.
"[We'll] turn our attention to Germany probably once we kind of move to the next step in the U.K."
However, China and Japan remain a bit out of reach at the moment.
"Putting a regular-season game in those markets has not been part of our thinking," Parsons said. "As we move forward we're looking at other creative ways to engage that fan base, perhaps more through technology rather than live action just because of the travel distance.
"If we do anything in China, which is definitely a possibility, that would certainly be more of the exhibition-type game than a regular-season game."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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