Success in London has NFL thinking bigger

LONDON - When you think about London you probably think about iconic sites  Big Ben, the Tower Bridge or Buckingham Palace. You probably don’t think football. Or at least American football. 

That could be changing. 

When the Titans meet the Chargers Sunday at Wembley Stadium it will be the 23rd NFL game played in London since 2007.

“These are huge deals,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s Executive Vice President of International. “We have about 12 million fans here, about four million of whom classify themselves as avid, so this is a great chance for our fans to kind of express their passion.”

The NFL’s international games are consistently sell outs. The perfect opportunity for the team, the league and fans across the world. 

The Titans will become the 29th NFL team to play an international game, the 28th here in London. 

“First of all, from a Tennessee perspective, or any team that’s coming, it’s a great opportunity to build a fan base,” Waller said. “The other thing that I think is important, certainly for us, is to have the teams understand the passion of the fan base here, and how important that is and what a great future we have.”

The Jaguars have see that first hand. They have made playing games in London a yearly tradition since the first experienced the success of a game at Wembley in 2013. 

In fact, the team’s owner, Shahid Khan, is finalizing a deal to purchase Wembley Stadium. A move that seems to indicate an opportunity for the NFL to play even more football in England’s most recognizable sports venue in the near future. 

It’s clear the NFL is bullish on the league’s international prospects. 

“You’ll see it when you get to the stadium, I have no doubt that the fan base is there and that the stadium options are good,” Waller said. “If you think about it, that’s sort of the ultimate expression of fandom when you have your own team. So, yeah, for everyone here (getting a permanent London franchise) is sort of the ultimate goal.”

Waller didn’t stop there, though. He named Mexico City, Toronto and Berlin as other possible international targets for the NFL. 

The timetable isn’t certain with Waller only speculating that he’d be surprised if the NFL didn’t move outside of the U.S. over the next couple of decades. But it seems clear the NFL has designs on global expansion.

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