The game will be played on Sunday, October 23 at Wembley Stadium in London at 6:00 p.m. local time (1:00 p.m. ET). The full 2011 NFL schedule will be announced at midnight UK time tomorrow (Tuesday April 19) on www.nfl.com.
“Our past four games in London have demonstrated the tremendous passion for NFL football that exists in the UK,” said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. “We hope by staging another extraordinary game at Wembley that we can continue to grow our existing fan base and attract even more new fans.”
For the Bears it will be a nostalgic return to Wembley on the 25th anniversary of playing in the first official NFL game staged in the UK. The Buccaneers also feature prominently in the NFL’s history at the stadium, having played a home game there against the New England Patriots in 2009.
The game will mark the fifth Pepsi Max International Series contest and feature two teams with championship aspirations. The Buccaneers finished last season at 10-6, led by one of the league’s most dynamic young rosters with seemingly unlimited potential. Head coach Raheem Morris was named as Coach of the Year by fans voting in the NFLUK Awards.
The Buccaneers previously capped the 2002 season with a win in Super Bowl XXXVII, while the Tampa Bay region has also played host to four Super Bowls.
“We are honoured to be selected to participate in the NFL International Series for a second time,” said Buccaneers co-chairman BRYAN GLAZER. “We are looking forward to promoting Tampa Bay’s emerging young team on the world stage. We have the longest-running fan club of any NFL team in the UK and look forward to seeing so many familiar faces from the Bucs UK fan club at the game.”
The Bears reached the NFC Championship Game last season and aim to advance one game further in 2011. One of the league’s most historic franchises, the nine-time NFL champions helped introduce the sport to a UK audience in the mid-1980s. As the reigning Super Bowl XX champions, the Bears played a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Wembley on August 3, 1986, the first of the American Bowl series of games designed to introduce American football to fans around the world.
“To return to London to play an NFL game – this is going to be fun,” said Chicago Bears chairman MICHAEL McCASKEY. “I remember how enthusiastic the fans were in 1986 when we played in Wembley Stadium and defeated the Dallas Cowboys. London fans were so welcoming and blended their traditions of singing soccer songs with the NFL-style of presenting games. Of course the Chicago Bears are very pleased to have been named the ‘Team of the Year’ by UK fans following the 2010 season. So we are looking forward to facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October and playing in person before our terrific fans in the UK and Europe.”
The Mayor of London, BORIS JOHNSON, said: “Continuing London's love affair with the hugely popular stateside sport, we are proud to once again welcome two of America’s top NFL teams to the capital. With a growing local fanbase it is a fantastic opportunity for enthusiasts from London and beyond to experience the unique thrill of a live game in one of the most iconic sports venues around, Wembley Stadium.”
FOX will provide live television coverage in the United States. Live coverage in the UK will air on Sky Sports and BBC Radio, with highlights on BBC TV.
Should the current NFL labour situation be unresolved by August 1, the game will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
For fans planning to attend the game, a Registry of Interest will be launched later this week at www.nfluk.com. Those registered will be first in line for the opportunity to purchase tickets and, based on demand for previous London games, registration is recommended.
A look at the four regular-season games played in the UK, all before sell-out crowds:
Date Visitor & Score Home & Score Att.
Sun, Oct. 28, 2007 New York Giants (13) Miami Dolphins (10) 81,176
Sun, Oct. 26, 2008 San Diego Chargers (32) New Orleans Saints (37) 83,226
Sun, Oct. 25, 2009 New England Patriots (35) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7) 84,254
Sun, Oct, 31, 2010 Denver Broncos (16) San Francisco 49ers (24) 83,941