London has beaten stiff competition from Germany, Canada and Mexico to host the first ever National Football League (NFL) regular season game to be held outside the Americas it was announced yesterday.
Last year the NFL decided to hold two regular season games a year outside the US in light of a growing international fanbase. The decision to award the honour to London comes after lobbying by the Mayor of London’s office and London tourist body Visit London.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told official league site nfl.com there was a growing level of international interest in the NFL and that playing games outside the US “is the next step for us in serving that interest.”
Mr Goodell added “there is no better place to begin this initiative than London. It is one of the great cities of the world with an established and growing fan base for our game. We are thrilled to bring the excitement of the NFL regular season to the United Kingdom.”
The selection of London was welcomed by Mayor Ken Livingstone who said having secured the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics games “London also wants to bring to Londoners the greatest of non-Olympic sports. Bringing the NFL to London, after also winning the right to stage the start of the Tour de France this year, is a great step forward in this.”
The Mayor said he expected the game to bring “more than 10,000” international fans to the city promising to work with the NFL to ensure “a great day of sport and a thrilling experience of London.”
The game will be screened live by Sky Sports in the UK with a highlights package being available via free-to-air terrestrial TV. Further games could be held in London in 2009 and 2011.
Visit London’s Chief Executive James Bidwell said he was “delighted” at the decision which he called an “amazing opportunity to showcase London.”