LONDON -- London will hold the NFL's first regular-season
game outside North America, the start of an international campaign
to take American football to a global audience.
"There's great history of NFL football in London, and British
fans have been great fans of football over the years," NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday. "We're confident that
this game is going be a great success in London and will be a great
foundation to play more games there going forward."
The opponents for the 2007 contest have yet to be announced, but
the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants are believed to be front-runners for the game. The Dolphins, but not the Giants, are one six NFL teams the league
identified as potential home teams; they would give up a home game
in Miami to host the contest in London.
"They are two of the teams that have expressed an interest and
we'll narrow it down to which two teams will generate the most
enthusiasm for the fans in London and the broader U.K.," Goodell
The most likely venue is the new 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium,
which will open this spring after years of delays. The other
candidate is 82,000-seat Twickenham, home of English rugby.
"We're looking at both venues in terms of their readiness,"
said Marc Waller, vice president of NFL International. "It's
important that we understand terms of readiness of both stadiums
and then a financial bidding process will also ensue."
The game will be held somewhere between late September to
Goodell will announce the teams, venue and date before the Feb.
4 Super Bowl in Miami.
NFL owners voted in October to play up to two games outside the
United States every season for the next five years. The London game
will be the only overseas contest in 2007.
Germany, Canada and Mexico have been identified as the other top
markets for NFL games outside the United States.
"We eliminated Toronto after agreeing with the Canadian
Football League that we wouldn't go there because it was already
hosting the Grey Cup," Goodell said. "Mexico was discussed, as
well as Duesseldorf and Hamburg."
The NFL staged its first regular-season game outside the United
States in 2005. The Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco
49ers before a crowd of 103,467 in Mexico City.
London hosted several NFL American Bowl preseason games in the
1980s and 1990s. The city also had the London Monarchs in the World
League of American Football -- now NFL Europe -- but the team folded.
Goodell said fans have reacted positively to the league's
overseas plan, even though it means some teams will lose a
scheduled home game.
"There are fans here that we think will like the idea and
respond to it because it puts your city on a global stage and the
city will be showed as a world class city itself," he said.