MUNICH (AP) — The NFL wants to keep its European tour going now that Germany has joined Britain in hosting games.
Spain and France are atop the league's wish list as it continues to look internationally for revenue growth.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 on Sunday at Allianz Arena — a first for Germany as part of a four-year deal that the league hopes will extend long-term. London has hosted regular-season games since 2007.
Beyond Germany, which could also get additional games soon, the league's analysis of fan growth and commercial potential puts Spain and France “very much on our radar,” Brett Gosper, NFL Head of UK and Europe, told The Associated Press in an interview.
“We need to do our homework to make sure that there is the possibility of a place to land any games in those markets, gauge interest of the host stadia, gauge interest of the host city, even the government, as to their enthusiasm to help us bring a game,” Gosper said.
Spain has a slight edge because the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins now have “home marketing” rights in the country. The NFL has divvied up international rights to interested teams covering 10 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Mexico and the U.K. No teams have rights in France.
“When you know that there are teams operating in (the international rights program) you want to look at the prospect and the viability of potentially having games in those markets at some point,” Gosper said.
International expansion was one reason why the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. The league has committed to playing four international games each season, and teams are required to play a “home" game abroad once every eight seasons.
Outside of that commitment, a team with rights in a country can opt to play home games there, as the Jacksonville Jaguars do in London. The Jags have played nine times in the British capital and currently have a three-year deal to play an annual “home” game at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium.
“A team might choose to do that. That’s a real possibility but again not imminent,” Gosper said.
“Certainly, in next six months to 12 months we’ll be really testing the viability of our options from a stadium point of view — not just in Europe but elsewhere — and then at the same time in parallel seeing what the appetite is for clubs to potentially exploit those markets with a game," he said.
In Spain, Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is undergoing major renovations that will include a soccer pitch that retracts to make way for an artificial turf field that can be used for American football with a capacity over 80,000. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to host London games, has a similar system. Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium seats 68,000.
Camp Nou is Europe’s largest soccer stadium with a capacity of 99,000, but Barcelona plans to begin a long-delayed renovation project that will last into 2026. The city's Montjuic Olympic Stadium seats about 56,000 and was a former home to the Barcelona Dragons of the NFL Europe league.
Gosper said there are “a lot of synergies” with Spain considering the NFL's large Spanish-speaking fanbase. Nine teams have marketing rights in Mexico.
The Stade de France just north of Paris has a capacity of just over 80,000 for soccer games.
“France is a little bit outside of that and it’s its own market and culture," Gosper said, "but at the same time it’s an incredibly strong sports media market where returns could be higher and faster than Spain.
“They’re two very healthy media markets, healthy sports markets, some strong indicators from our streaming platform as well as from our consumer sales," he continued. "When you mine the data a little bit, they certainly are two markets with high potential.”
Elsewhere in Europe, the Nordic markets would be next and “Sweden in particular,” Gosper said. The country's largest stadium, Friends Arena, tops out at 50,000 fans.
In August 1988, the Bears played the Minnesota Vikings in a preseason game at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg.
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Ken Maguire, The Associated Press