The NFL has signed a new deal with Wembley to play at least two games a year at the stadium until the end of the decade, as it continues to slowly build towards a full-time franchise in London.
Earlier this year, the NFL signed a 10-year contract to also play at least two games per year at Tottenham’s new White Hart Lane from 2018.
The new deal with Wembley includes an option to extend the contract until 2025, mapping out a future in which at least four games will be played in London per season and shared between the two venues.
As part of the deal, Jacksonville Jaguars extended their contract to play at least one game per season in London until 2020.
The sport is also exploring options to play international matches in Mexico and Germany, but NFL vice president of international Mark Waller said the eventual aim was still to bring a full time franchise to London.
Having previously considered other options including Twickenham, the Olympic Stadium and the Emirates he said further adding to the roster of London stadiums remained a possibility as it built towards having eight games in London and, eventually, a full franchise.
“We want to have a fan base to sustain a full season of games,” said Waller. “The ultimate expression will be a franchise. We want this market to be reflective of the other 31 we have in the US. The fan base is big and passionate enough.”
Despite three rounds of talks with the chancellor George Osborne, who recently expressed his enthusiasm for bringing a full franchise to London, it is unlikely to happen before 2020.
This Sunday’s game between Jacksonville and the Buffalo Bills, the second at Wembley this year, and the clash between the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs on 1 November will take the number of contests played at the stadium to 14 since 2007.
The Jaguars owned, Shad Khan, who also bought Fulham in 2013, said that building towards the possibility of increasing the number of games they played in London was a slow process.
“It’s been a win-win for the Jaguars and Wembley. To me, right now, what we’re focused on is stabilising the club,” he said. “London and the NFL supporting us in this mission has been critical. Our focus is to play a game here for the near future and then look at playing more than one game.”
The NFL is believed to be having discussions around potential tax breaks with the chancellor, similar to those that allowed the Champions League final and Anniversary Games to come to London.
Khan pointed to research that showed only one third of those attending NFL games came from greater London, with a third coming from the rest of the UK and a further third from Europe to demonstrate the event’s wider profitability.
He said: “NFL being in London is a huge value generator for London and England. The value NFL is adding here is great for tourism and the UK as a whole.”
Julie Harrington, who now oversees operations at Wembley as well as St George’s Park under a recent restructure, said the renewal of the NFL deal had no bearing on discussions regarding whether to take England games on the road. The Guardian revealed in October that the next round of Club Wembley contracts would be shorter and more flexible, but would also include a provision for the FA to play some England home matches away from Wembley.
The FA chief executive Martin Glenn said this week that some England warm up matches ahead of Euro 2016 could also be taken on the road.
This article was written by Owen Gibson, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd October 2015 22.43 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010