Why Do The NFL Play In London?
The popularity of American football has grown rapidly in the UK over the last 10 years, with the NFL’s London Games and International Series a major factor.
While the NFL is America’s most-watched league, it doesn’t have the same appeal outside the US as its rivals.
MLB, the NBA and the NHL all have foundations of support in different countries, which is something the NFL has been aiming to build over the last decade or so.
From diehard fans to those with a passing interest, the NFL is going from strength to strength in the UK.
When Did The First NFL London Games Take Place?
The first NFL game in London took place in 2007. The Miami Dolphins were the designated home team against the New York Giants, with the Giants winning a low-scoring game by three points.
New York’s win in London proved significant, as they ultimately secured a wildcard berth and went on an historic playoff run to defeat the unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Where Are The London Games Held?
The NFL London games were held exclusively at Wembley from 2007 until 2015. Twickenham hosted games in 2016 and 2017.
From 2019 onwards, Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium have shared the London Games.
Tottenham’s new stadium was built with the NFL in mind, with a retractable pitch to make a seamless transition from Premier League venue to American Football arena.
Spurs’ home had both of the NFL London games in 2021 and will host two more in 2022.
What Was The Best NFL Game In London?
NFL fans in the UK have been treated to some great games in London. The best of the bunch was the New Orleans Saints’ 37-32 win over the San Diego Chargers in 2008.
Philip Rivers and Drew Brees combined for almost 700 passing yards and six touchdowns, and the Chargers almost staged a spectacular comeback after surging from 37-20 down in the final period.
The game was sealed with just over a minute left when Rivers was picked off with his team behind by over a touchdown.
Which NFL Team Has Played The Most Games In London?
The Jacksonville Jaguars have played the most games in London. Jacksonville has a 4-4 record in their eight games in London, seven of which have been played at Wembley.
Playing the Denver Broncos at Wembley in 2022, the Jags will be returning to Wembley in 2023 and 2024, as was announced earlier this year.
At the end of the 2021 season, the Green Bay Packers were the only team yet to play in London.
That will change in October 2022 when they face the New York Giants at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
What Other Countries Does The NFL Play In?
The NFL has played three regular season games in Mexico with a fourth scheduled for 2022.
Germany will host its first NFL regular season game in November 2022 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks matching up at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.
Mexico hosted its first NFL game in 2016, as the Oakland Raiders beat the Houston Texans.
A year later, the Raiders lost to the Patriots. The 2018 game was moved to Los Angeles after the playing field was found to be in poor condition.
The Kansas City Chiefs, originally scheduled to play in 2018, made their first appearance in Mexico in 2019 with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin have been mooted as potential host cities for NFL games. Plans have previously been made to play in China, but they have never gone through.
Should The NFL Introduce A London Franchise?
Relocating a franchise to London or adding a London franchise as an expansion team is a controversial topic among NFL fans.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are already closely associated with England’s capital, and they are due to play their ninth ‘home’ game in London in 2022.
With the vast majority of British NFL fans already supporting a team, though, there are doubts about the feasibility of a specific London franchise. Those already closely following a team are unlikely to switch. New fans living a considerable distance from London might still opt to support an American franchise.
There are scheduling issues with the additional travel required, too. A franchise in London would also be under considerable pressure to be competitive for a prolonged period, as a deep rebuild is not going to attract new fans.
While there is a lot to like about the prospect of an NFL franchise in London, and it has been deemed a ‘realistic possibility’ by Commissioner Roger Goodell, it is not going to happen any time soon.
For now, those craving a London-based team will have to settle for the Jaguars once a year, though there is potential for that to increase in the coming seasons.