NFL International Series

Introduction.

Beginning with the 2007 season, the National Football League has hosted regular season American football games outside of the United States every year in a series known as the International Series. From 2007 and until at least 2016, games have been held at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Dan has been lucky enough to have been to every game from 2007.

The games –

2007 NFL International Series

 

2008

NFL 2009 International Series London Patriots Buccaneers

(to follow – link to pics and match info).

Background

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 Europe (then known as NFL Europa) 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, 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 won’t 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 on Sky Sports, and also as of 2013 on Channel 4 and its sister More4 with an HD option where available, while highlights are shown on the BBC. On radio, the games are broadcast by BBC Radio 5 Live, with Arlo White commentating.

Typically, one of the games in Europe 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. 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.

With the exception of 2011 and the Oakland vs Miami and Atlanta vs Detroit 2014 games, all games have 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.Teams that are selected to give up a home game to play overseas are typically franchises that have been struggling with attendance at home games. In an effort to promote season ticket sales, this allows teams to sell a cheaper season ticket package that contains only seven regular season games rather than the usual eight.

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 year.This would mean that under the current agreement, San Francisco, New England, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami and Detroit will not be able to return as visitors but may return as the home team.

The Buffalo Bills received a unanimous vote of approval to play a series of regular season games at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario from 2008-2017,and a pre-season game in every other year, beginning in 2008. This will be separate from the regular International Series as arrangements are made by the team as opposed to the league as with the international series.

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