NFL International Series
To date, all of the games in the International Series have been held in London, England. Wembley Stadium was the exclusive home stadium for International Series games from 2007 to 2015 and will continue to host NFL games through at least 2020; beginning in 2016, the series will begin expanding to more stadia, first to Twickenham Stadium, London (2016–18) and to Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico (2016–) and eventually to the still under construction new stadium at Northumberland Park also in London (2018–27).
- 1 Background
- 2 Early years: 2007-2011
- 3 Multi-year arrangements: 2012–2015
- 4 Long-term deals and the NFL's return to Mexico: 2016–Present
- 5 Game history
- 6 Future
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Prior to 2005, the NFL's primary method of promoting its game abroad was through the American Bowl, a series of preseason games played around the world, and NFL Europe, a developmental league based in Europe. The American Bowls ended in 2005 (though a similar China Bowl was planned for 2007 before being cancelled), while NFL Europa (as it was known for its final season) folded in 2007. On October 2, 2005, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31–14 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico under the name NFL Fútbol Americano. It was the first regular season NFL game held outside of the United States. The game drew the NFL's highest game attendance at the time with 103,467 spectators.
Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, has considered expanding the league's appeal overseas ever since the end of NFL Europa. Goodell has openly discussed the idea of holding a future Super Bowl game in London. The NFL also investigated the possibility of adding a 17th regular season game to all teams, taking the place of the fourth pre-season game. Waller notes that there will not be 16 different venues for the 17th games. More likely would be a "mini-season ticket" of perhaps four games in one city or country. There was discussion that this "17th game" could take effect as early as the 2009 NFL season; however, 2010 would be the earliest this could be implemented because of concerns about playing on Labor Day or over the 2010 Winter Olympics, the league's rigid scheduling formula, and the league's collective bargaining agreement (CBA). League officials were pondering moving a second existing game abroad for the 2010 season, but eventually abandoned it due to the ongoing CBA negotiations. The league eventually abandoned their desire to expand the NFL season in the CBA negotiations, and the new CBA enacted in 2011 keeps the NFL schedule at 16 games.
Games in the United Kingdom are broadcast by the BBC and Sky Sports either live on BBC2 or online via the BBC Sports website and interactive TV and on Sky Sports 3. On radio, the games are broadcast by BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, with Arlo White commentating.
Typically, one of the games in the UK is played on the last weekend of October and/or the same weekend as Major League Baseball's World Series (although in 2009, this was not the case because the World Series played one week later than usual). Games are normally played at 1:00 p.m. or 9:30 a.m ET to account for time zone differences; also, on the last Sunday in October, daylight saving time ends in Europe, one week earlier than it ends in the United States. Because of this, a game in London with a 1:00 pm EDT kickoff would begin at 5:00 pm local time instead of 6:00 pm. Games played in Canada or Mexico would not be subject to these restrictions because they are in the same time zones as the United States.
Through 2013, all but one of the games (the 2011 contest being the exception) featured a team from each conference.
The games have been popular, with tickets for the two games per season selling out in two days, nine months in advance. According to the NFL, only 3% of those attending the London games are Americans or American expatriates, while 22% are from London and 60% from elsewhere in Britain. Ticket prices are from £35 for end zone seats to £100 for lower sideline seats. A team that plays a home game in London sells a cheaper season ticket package for its own stadium with seven regular season games rather than the usual eight. Each designated home team receives US$1 million for giving up the home game.
On October 11, 2011, the NFL owners approved playing NFL games in Great Britain through the year 2016. This stated that a home team could visit every year for up to five years but visitors could only visit once every five years. This would mean that under the current agreement, San Francisco, New England, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami and Detroit would not be able to return as visitors but may return as the home team. However, in 2015 the Detroit Lions will return to London as visitors in an apparent disregard for this rule.
The Buffalo Bills received a unanimous vote of approval to play a series of regular and preseason games at Rogers Centre in Toronto from 2008 to 2017, This was separate from the regular International Series as arrangements are made by the team as opposed to the league as with the International Series. The series was mutually terminated after the 2013 contest.
Early years: 2007-2011
The Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in London, England on October 28, 2007. The Giants defeated the Dolphins 13–10 in the first regular season NFL game held outside of North America. The first 40,000 tickets sold out for the game in the first 90 minutes of sales.
The game was aired on Fox, but was not available nationwide in the United States. Portions of the midwestern and Rocky Mountain areas of the United States did not get to see the game on television, as they were shown a regional game. Thom Brennaman, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa were assigned to call the game.
Like the 2007 game, this matchup was not seen nationally, having only regional coverage on CBS. However, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, the network's top announcing team, were assigned to the game, and opening ceremonies were carried live before cutting away to local games.
The New England Patriots defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35–7 at Wembley Stadium on October 25, 2009. The game was televised regionally in the United States by CBS and on Sky Sports and BBC One in the United Kingdom. CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were again assigned to the game. Simms noted during the opening of the game that "the fans in London came up to him and said they were more excited about this game than the previous two." It is most notably because the New England Patriots have a massive fan base in the United Kingdom and the fact that quarterback Tom Brady was the center of attention by the British media from the moment the Patriots arrived in London, more than the designated "home" team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose owner, Malcolm Glazer, also owns Manchester United.
On October 31, 2010, the game was again played at London's Wembley Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers won 24–16 over the Denver Broncos. The weather, like the first 2007 NFL International Series game between the Dolphins and the Giants, was rainy throughout the day (but went on to clear up as the game itself approached). The game itself was a slow burner until the final period when it exploded into life. With Denver looking to steal the 'away' win, the 49ers, led by Troy Smith went on to take a 24–10 lead late in the game and went on to take the win 24–16. As an AFC team (Denver) was the visiting team, the game was once again carried on CBS, but with their number two announcing team of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf.
The 2011 International Series game featured the Chicago Bears facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 23, with the Buccaneers serving as the home team. Had the NFL lockout not been resolved by August 1, it would have reverted to Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium; the lockout was lifted on July 25, allowing the game to go forward. The game was the first in the International Series to feature two teams from the same conference (the NFC); a similar break from tradition was planned for the ultimately canceled Hall of Fame Game that year, which would have also featured the Bears. No reason was given for the change in either game. As this was an NFC away game, the game was televised on Fox, with their number two announcing team of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa. The Bears dominated the first half thanks to Matt Forté's early touchdown in the game. Tampa Bay struck back by forcing a safety on Forté, as well as an attempted second half comeback, but Tampa Bay's hopes of winning were dashed when Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw a game-ending interception to Bears cornerback DJ Moore, sealing a Bears 24–18 victory.
Multi-year arrangements: 2012–2015
On January 20, 2012, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that from 2012 to 2014, the St. Louis Rams would play one of its eight home games each year at Wembley Stadium. The first of those games was on Sunday, October 28, 2012, against one of their interconference opponents, the New England Patriots. However, on August 13, 2012, the team announced that they would not play the proposed games in London in 2013 and 2014. Goodell had previously proposed the use of certain regular teams in the International Series in an effort to build a fan base for those teams, raising the prospect of a permanent NFL team on the British Isles. CBS aired the game, assigning their top announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. The Patriots eventually won the game 45–7 in front of 84,004 fans.
The Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to play a home game in London for four seasons from 2013 through 2016. Jacksonville will replace the St. Louis Rams, who backed out of a deal to play there in 2013 and 2014. With this announcement also came news that the NFL were working to schedule another UK game from 2013 onwards. (The Jaguars later extended their agreement with Wembley Stadium through 2020 in an agreement announced in October 2015.) On October 11, 2012, it was announced that the Jaguars were to face the San Francisco 49ers on October 27, 2013. This was the 49ers second game in London (after the 2010 London game against the Denver Broncos) and third internationally (after the 2005 Fútbol Americano game against the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City). The San Francisco–Jacksonville game was aired on Fox, but with one of their lower-tier announcing teams: Chris Myers and Tim Ryan. The 49ers ended up defeating the Jaguars 42–10.
On October 14, 2012, ESPN leaked a rumor the Minnesota Vikings would also play a home game in London during the 2013 season, which will be the first time two games were played internationally in a season. The Vikings later confirmed this and confirmed that the official announcement and details were due to be made at the NFL owners' meeting in Chicago on October 16. At this meeting, it was revealed that the Vikings would play the Pittsburgh Steelers in London on September 29, 2013. CBS once again assigned their top announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to call the game. The Vikings defeated the Steelers 34–27.
The NFL announced two additional games for the 2014 season, with the Oakland Raiders hosting the Miami Dolphins on September 28 and the Atlanta Falcons hosting the Detroit Lions on October 26 in addition to the Jacksonville Jaguars' home game which was to be played against the Dallas Cowboys on November 9. This was the second of four scheduled Jacksonville Jaguars matches between 2013 and 2016. On December 4, 2013, the NFL announced that the Detroit–Atlanta game would start at 9:30 am. ET (1:30 p.m. local time), the first time in league history that a game has started that early in the morning in the U.S. This would thus provide a quadruple-header on an NFL Sunday rather than the normal three windows (the 1:00 p.m. early slot, the 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. late afternoon slot, and Sunday Night Football).
It was announced on November 6, 2014 via British TV channel Sky Sports News HQ that three games would be played at Wembley Stadium again in 2015. On October 4, the Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Jets. On October 25, the Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Buffalo Bills and on November 1, the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Detroit Lions on the Lions' second consecutive visit to London. The Jets-Dolphins game marked the first time a divisional game has taken place at Wembley as both teams play in the AFC East. 2015 was also the first year in which games have taken place in back-to-back weeks. On January 11, 2015 it was confirmed that kick off for both the Jets-Dolphins and Bills-Jaguars games was to be 9:30 am. EDT, once again creating a four-game NFL Sunday. The Jets-Dolphins game kicked off at 2:30 BST and Bills-Jaguars kicked off at 1:30 p.m GMT (Daylight savings time ends a week earlier in Europe than it does in North America). Both AFC games were aired by CBS in the U.S., with Jets-Dolphins a national game, and Bills-Jaguars being designated regional. On March 23, 2015, the league announced from its annual owners' meetings that the Bills-Jaguars game would be the first NFL game broadcast on a worldwide digital platform, as the game would be simulcast on the Yahoo! website in addition to television markets designated to carry the game on CBS. On January 23, Detroit-Kansas City was also announced as a 9:30 am. EST kick off meaning this game will kick off at 2:30 pm. GMT.
Long-term deals and the NFL's return to Mexico: 2016–Present
Between 2018 and 2027 at least, two games each year will be played at Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium in Northumberland Park as part of an agreement between the NFL and Tottenham Hotspur. On October 7, 2015, the league announced that a resolution had been passed to schedule international games at additional locations to London until 2025. On October 22, 2015 it was confirmed that at least two games per year will remain at Wembley until at least 2020 and that the Jacksonville Jaguars will continue to play a home game there annually throughout the agreement. Subsequent to this, on November 3, 2015, the NFL announced that it had reached an agreement with England's Rugby Football Union to host regular season games at Twickenham Stadium from 2016 onwards, with a minimum of three, and as many as five games to be held over the initial agreement period of three years. This means that by 2018 a minimum of five games will be held in London at at least three venues, (Wembley Stadium, Twickenham Stadium, and the Spurs' new stadium in Northumberland Park).
Matchups for London in 2016 were announced on November 25, 2015, via Sky Sports News HQ. On October 2, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium. On October 23, the Los Angeles Rams will host the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium, and finally, on October 30, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium. As was the case in 2015, all three games will be played at 9:30 a.m. ET (1:30 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. local time). This marks the first time a west-coast team will play an early-morning game, as kickoff will be at 6:30 a.m. in the Rams' home market.
On February 5, 2016, it was also announced that the Oakland Raiders will host the Houston Texans on Monday, November 21, 2016 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico. This will be the first time Monday Night Football has been held outside the US, and the second time ESPN broadcasts a game abroad after the 2005 Fútbol Americano game (also in Mexico City at the defunct ESPN Sunday Night Football slot) and the first NFL International Series game in Mexico. Previously, the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers had expressed interest in playing a game at Estadio Azteca (or possibly Estadio Olímpico Universitario) in Mexico City although Houston was not prepared to give up a home fixture.
|Year||Date||Television||Designated Visitors||Score||Designated Home||Score||Stadium||City||Attendance||Pre-game show|
|2007||October 28||Fox||New York Giants||13||Miami Dolphins||10||Wembley Stadium||London||81,176||The Feeling|
|2008||October 26||CBS||San Diego Chargers||32||New Orleans Saints||37||Wembley Stadium||London||83,226||Stereophonics|
|2009||October 25||CBS||New England Patriots||35||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7||Wembley Stadium||London||84,254||Calvin Harris|
|2010||October 31||CBS||Denver Broncos||16||San Francisco 49ers||24||Wembley Stadium||London||83,941||My Chemical Romance|
|2011||October 23||Fox||Chicago Bears||24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||18||Wembley Stadium||London||76,981||Goo Goo Dolls|
|2012||October 28||CBS||New England Patriots||45||St. Louis Rams||7||Wembley Stadium||London||84,004||Train|
|2013||September 29||CBS||Pittsburgh Steelers||27||Minnesota Vikings||34||Wembley Stadium||London||83,518||Tinie Tempah|
|October 27||Fox||San Francisco 49ers||42||Jacksonville Jaguars||10||Wembley Stadium||London||83,559||Ne-Yo|
|2014||September 28||CBS||Miami Dolphins||38||Oakland Raiders||14||Wembley Stadium||London||83,436||Def Leppard|
|October 26||Fox||Detroit Lions||22||Atlanta Falcons||21||Wembley Stadium||London||83,532||Little Mix|
|November 9||Fox||Dallas Cowboys||31||Jacksonville Jaguars||17||Wembley Stadium||London||83,603||Joss Stone|
|2015||October 4||CBS||New York Jets||27||Miami Dolphins||14||Wembley Stadium||London||83,986||None|
|October 25||Yahoo![A]||Buffalo Bills||31||Jacksonville Jaguars||34||Wembley Stadium||London||84,021||The Ohio State University Marching Band|
|November 1||Fox||Detroit Lions||10||Kansas City Chiefs||45||Wembley Stadium||London||83,624||Madness|
|2016||October 2||CBS†||Indianapolis Colts||Jacksonville Jaguars||Wembley Stadium||London|
|October 23||NFLN||New York Giants||Los Angeles Rams||Twickenham Stadium||London|
|October 30||Fox†||Washington Redskins||Cincinnati Bengals||Wembley Stadium||London|
|November 21||ESPN||Houston Texans||Oakland Raiders||Estadio Azteca||Mexico City|
|2017||TBD||TBD||TBD||Jacksonville Jaguars||Wembley Stadium||London|
|TBD||TBD||TBD||Los Angeles Rams||TBD||TBD|
† Subject to change through cross-flexing.
As of the 2015-2016 season 11 of the 32 teams have not played in the International Series with four of them (Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and Washington Redskins) scheduled to play during the 2016 season. This leaves seven teams (Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and Tennessee Titans) who will not have played in the International Series. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins have each played three international games, the most of any teams. Jacksonville will play in its fourth game in the 2016 season and is scheduled to play at least one international game every season through 2020.
Before the Chargers and Saints were announced to be the two teams headed to London in 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks were identified as teams interested in playing a future game in Europe. In particular, Seattle, which had been slated to play the China Bowl before that game was cancelled, had shown a continued interest in playing a game abroad. Tampa Bay eventually got the 2009 and 2011 games, while Kansas City got one of the games in 2015. Both the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins have similarly expressed interest in returning to the UK in a rematch of 2007's international series. There have also been negotiations between the Pittsburgh Steelers (whose owner, Dan Rooney, was the United States Ambassador to Ireland) and Croke Park in Dublin, Republic of Ireland for a potential International Series game there.
The Rams and the Buccaneers are both under co-ownership with teams in the Premier League, the top association football league in England; the Rams are under co-ownership with Arsenal Football Club of London, while the Buccaneers are co-owned with Manchester United. From 2006 until 2012, the Cleveland Browns were also under co-ownership with Aston Villa before Randy Lerner sold the Browns to Jimmy Haslam, and since 2013, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan also owns Fulham F.C., which were at the time in the Premiership but have since been relegated to the Football League Championship.
As part of their application to relocate to Los Angeles for the 2016 season, the Rams have volunteered to play in the International Series at least once a year while occupying the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for three seasons until their new stadium in Inglewood, California, opens in 2019.
In 2016, Steelers president Art Rooney II stated that the team may have to give up a home game to play in Mexico City in the future, with the team stating that they would require permission from the Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to do so, as their lease at Heinz Field explicitly requires the team to play ten home games at that stadium per season. 
Within the United Kingdom, aside from London, potential candidates for hosting NFL games include Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales; and Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland. Other prime locations to get games would be Croke Park in the Republic of Ireland (Ireland has already hosted the NCAA Emerald Isle Classic, a college football game similar to the International Series, and Steelers owner Dan Rooney was once an ambassador to the country); Germany; Mexico; and Canada (Canada hosted the Bills Toronto Series from 2008 to 2013). Mark Waller, NFL senior vice president, international, doubts Asia or Australia would be targeted because of the travel concerns, but he does not dismiss anything. Until 2015 the Jacksonville Jaguars' agreement stipulated that all future International Series games in the current agreement would take place at Wembley, ruling out other locations.
The success of the International Series has led the NFL to focus its global expansion aims on the possibility of having a full franchise located in London. While no set timetable has been set, the league is working on a goal of establishing a franchise by around 2021, assuming they have all the necessary arrangements in place. It is believed this would be most likely achieved through relocation of an existing franchise, with the Jaguars most often linked due to their association with the International Series, even though their owners are said to be content with the current arrangement and other franchises have more reason to move (the most often cited being poor on-field performance, lack of fans and uncertainty over stadium leases). The NFL has used some of the specific arrangements for the International Series games as a test bed for predicting how a London franchise could be made effective from a logistical and competitiveness standpoint.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to NFL International Series.|
- List of National Football League games played outside the United States
- American Bowl
- Canadian Football League in the United States
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