NFL owners voted today to continue playing regular-season games in the United Kingdom for at least five more years, and to explore the possibility of a permanent “home” team that plays in London every year.
Today’s vote of the NFL owners confirms that the NFL will have at least one regular-season game in the U.K. every year through 2016, and the resolution passed by the owners today allows teams to volunteer to play at least one regular-season game a year as a home team in the U.K.
The most likely candidate to be that home team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who played a home game in London in 2009 and will play another home game in London this season. The Glazer family, owners of the Buccaneers, also owns English soccer club Manchester United, and the Glazers would love to see the Bucs gain some traction as a popular team in the U.K.
However, there are questions about just how popular American football really is in the U.K. The NFL has acknowledged that ticket sales are slow for the upcoming Bears-Buccaneers game, which makes one wonder whether the NFL is trying to force its sport on an overseas audience that doesn’t want it.
But make no mistake, the NFL isn’t giving up on the U.K. market any time soon. In fact, the resolution passed today allows the league office to schedule more than one game a year in the U.K., if there’s enough interest and enough teams willing to sacrifice a home game to do it. The NFL is committed to expanding American football outside America.