NFL commits games to Canada, Mexico, Europe
The NFL confirmed Tuesday that two regular-season games will be played annually at select venues in Canada, Mexico or Europe.
"It's in response to the growing fan interest in our game overseas," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "There are more and more fans on a global basis."
No sites were announced, but the plan takes effect next season with each of the NFL's 32 teams playing twice outside the U.S. — once as the home team, once as the visitors — over a 16-year cycle.
Venues will likely be determined before the Super Bowl; teams will be selected later.
"Germany has a large number of sites as it has just done the World Cup [and the] UK has a significant number of great sites," said Mark Waller, senior vice-president of NFL International. "We know the sites in Mexico and Canada, so there's no shortage of venues that are interested in these games."
NFL owners agreed to forfeit one home game apiece as long as they didn't lose the gate.
"We are going to get compensated [for sacrificing home-gate revenues]," Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said. "Obviously, the league is going to work out the economics and, if we lose a home game, we will get compensated.
"We're comfortable with it. Obviously, we'd like to play in Mexico or Canada and not have to travel to Europe.
"And that's probably the way it would be set up because of our location. But as far as the league's concerned, I think it's a great idea."
The lone regular-season game played outside the U.S. was contested at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca, where an NFL record crowd of 103,467 watched the Arizona Cardinals defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 on Oct. 2, 2005.
That success, coupled with regular television coverage in Canada and Mexico and expanding TV exposure in Britain and Germany, prompted the NFL to adopt an annual plan.
"The owners believe that hosting regular-season games, outside the United States, on a regular basis is in the best interests of the league and will help to increase the fan base, build awareness of the NFL and grow the sport worldwide," Goodell said.
Since 1986, the NFL has staged annual exhibitions, known as the American Bowl, in cities like Montreal and Toronto as well as London, Berlin, Mexico City and Osaka, Japan.
"The pre-season games and American Bowl games have worked well to introduce fans to the game," Waller said. "Once fans have gotten to know it and understand it, they are very aware that the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl are the real thing."
The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to play in the China Bowl, a pre-season game at Beijing's Workers Stadium next Aug. 8.
With files from the Associated Press