In response to growing fan support of football in the United Kingdom, the NFL will take another important step in its international development in 2014 when, for the first time, three regular-season games will be played in the UK, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today at the league’s autumn meeting in Washington, DC.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders each will play one home game in London next year at Wembley Stadium. The dates of the games and opponents for each club will be announced later this season.
“Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more,” Goodell said. “Both of this year’s games in London sold out quickly. The fan enthusiasm for our sport continues to grow. By playing two games in the UK this year, we are creating more fans. We hope that with three games in London next year we will attract even more people to our game.”
The International Series of regular-season games has increased NFL fan interest in the UK, with a current fan base of more than 12 million, including 2.5 million avid fans, a 30 percent increase in avid fans in the past two years.
The Minnesota Vikings’ thrilling 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London on September 29 drew a crowd of 83,518 to Wembley. The day before, more than 520,000 people attended a football festival on Regent Street, enjoying football-themed games and attractions, including visits from Vikings’ and Steelers’ players and coaches.
Television ratings have shown substantial growth in the UK since 2006 – with Sunday viewership of NFL games almost doubling and the Super Bowl audience having increased 75 percent. The league also has developed new and stronger business partnerships.
Participation in amateur football in the UK has risen since the start of the International Series, growing by approximately 15 percent per year since 2007.
The Jaguars, who face the San Francisco 49ers in London on Sunday, October 27, have committed to playing a home game in the UK in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, all at Wembley.
“The experience the Jaguars have had already in London has been every bit what we anticipated and more, and this is all before we've even played our first game in Wembley Stadium,” said Jaguars owner Shad Khan. “We made the right decision to commit to playing a home game in London each season through 2016. The Jaguars have a broader worldwide fan base today and the anticipation for our London game later this month is shared by our loyal fans in Jacksonville, so it’s a perfect scenario for everyone. The energy and appetite for the NFL in the UK is incredible. The Raiders and Falcons will see for themselves next season.”
Atlanta and Oakland next year will each play its first regular-season game beyond the borders of the United States.
“We are excited and honored to serve as ambassadors for our city, our state, and the National Football League,” said Falcons owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank. “Playing in London will provide tremendous exposure to our team, as well as provide the opportunity to showcase the great international city of Atlanta. We are looking forward to representing the NFL on a global stage by playing in historic Wembley Stadium in what we are sure will be an entertaining game for NFL fans everywhere.”
The Raiders return to London for the first time since 1990 when they played in a preseason game at the old Wembley Stadium against the New Orleans Saints.
“We are excited and embrace this great opportunity to assist in building NFL popularity worldwide,” said Raiders owner Mark Davis. “The Raiders are truly a global brand and we are looking forward to our home-field advantage at the new Wembley Stadium.”
Roger Maslin, Wembley Stadium Managing Director, said: “This announcement further highlights the growth and success of the NFL in the UK. We’re incredibly proud of being the venue of choice for the NFL and continuing our proud heritage of American football at Wembley Stadium. We are delighted to have witnessed the excitement and enthusiasm of the fans and Club Wembley members at these matches. Their passion and commitment for the game has helped the International Series go from strength to strength.”