NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has high hopes for the NFL's attempt to win over the U.K., a country that already has a popular sport called "football." The American league will play three games in London next season, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders hosting matches in Wembley Stadium. The games are a continuation of a years-long plan to introduce the country to American football: NFL started scheduling an annual game at the stadium in 2007, and plans to play two games there this season. And at today's announcement during the league's fall meetings, that schedule is expanding even further in 2014.
The NFL estimates that its own fan base in the country is about 12 million people. It's not clear how they got that estimate, but the league notes that the international games sell out quickly. It looks like the league is trying to build a strong connection between the Jaguars and London football fans in particular, thanks to its owner Shahid Khan (who also owns the Fulham Premier League club). As the BBC notes, the team will play one game a year in London until at least 2016, starting with its first London game later this season. The NFL's "Around the League" further stoked rumors that the league would like to send a franchise to London at some point by noting that "it's no coincidence that all three franchises are dissatisfied with their current stadium situations." Here's Goodell's Tuesday statement on the plan:
"Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more. 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."
Next year's games will be the first U.K. games for the Atlanta Falcons and the Oakland Raiders. The dates and opponents for all three games will be determined later, when the league sets its 2014 schedule.