LONDON (AP) — With Germany in the fold and Spain in its sights, the NFL’s game plan in Europe only gets more intriguing.
So it’s easy to overlook the old standby: Britain.
London has been moving the chains since it first staged a regular-season game in 2007 and league officials remain high on the country even as they scout the continent for future host cities.
The league says there's more room to grow in Britain and signaled its commitment by extending its deal to play “a minimum” of two games per season at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium through the 2029 season.
Six teams are also busy in Britain trying to grow their fan bases and make commercial deals through the NFL's global markets program.
London will host three games in consecutive weeks starting Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium. The Jags stay to play the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham — it's the first time a team has two games abroad in the same season.
“Rather than feeling like it’s a traveling circus that arrives in the U.K. and is relevant when there’s one game in London and then the Super Bowl, it really feels like the NFL is part of the sporting fabric of the U.K.,” said Henry Hodgson, the NFL's general manager for Britain.
League officials point to positive trends with TV viewership. Longtime broadcast partner Sky Sports created a dedicated NFL channel in 2020 that added a wide range of programs to live games airing in Britain and Ireland.
This season's Week 1 was the most-watched regular season Sunday in Sky Sports’ history, the league said.
Last year's switch from the BBC to ITV — which will carry two London games as well as a highlights show through the season free for viewers — gave the NFL more control over programming that it has shaped toward 12- to 24-year-olds.
"We think that’s where the opportunity is to continue to grow the fan base in the U.K.,” Hodgson said.
The league said the NFL Academy's TikTok channel has the highest engagement of its channels on the the popular video-sharing app.
The NFL won't overtake the Premier League for popularity in Britain but it says it has 14 million fans with 3 million deemed “avid” fans. The comparable figures in Germany — which will host two games in November — are 18 million and 3.3 million.
Results of a survey by media consulting firm Altman Solon indicate good consumer trends for the NFL in Britain. It showed 28% of respondents said the NFL is in their top-five of favorite leagues; Germany was next highest at 21%.
“Both countries have a solid base of interest in the NFL's product and their fans show a willingness to pay for NFL content,” said Matt Del Percio, a director at Altman Solon.
No team has played more often in London than the Jaguars. Sunday's game will be their 10th — all but one have been at Wembley.
“We look at London and Wembley especially as our home away from Jacksonville,” said Maria Gigante, the team's vice president of operations in Britain.
The Jags are in the second of a three-year deal to play a “home” game at Wembley. That's apart from the international game teams must play on a rotational basis. The Jags' game on Oct. 8 against the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham will be run by the league.
Meanwhile, the Jags are in charge of their Wembley games, overseeing ticketing and hospitality in what they have described as “significantly” more profitable than a typical game in Jacksonville.
The team's 37-17 home loss to the Houston Texans drew 61,466 to EverBank Stadium. Last year's game at Wembley, a 21-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, had a crowd of 86,215 — the most for a London game — and they expect more on Sunday.
Jags owner Shad Khan, who also owns Premier League soccer club Fulham, once tried to buy Wembley from the English Football Association. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy was among those opposed to the proposed sale.
The league gave Tottenham — where the soccer field retracts to make way for an artificial turf surface — the status of “Home of the NFL in the UK" but separately said the designation will have “no impact” on future games at Wembley, which it described as “an important partner.”
“It’s great to have two fantastic stadiums in the U.K. that are able to house NFL games and venues that fans loving going to,” Hodgson said.
The Jags, who are holding a “Jags Country” event headlined by Clint Black on Thursday in London, hope to continue playing at Wembley beyond 2024 but first need approval from team owners.
Jacksonville has seven full-time employees in Britain and a growing database of 120,000 names — all compiled since 2018 after a privacy law required companies to delete contacts.
“We have a fairly robust infrastructure here compared to teams that are just able to come in and market and are managing from the U.S.,” Gigante said. “We think there’s a ton more to do here."
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Ken Maguire, The Associated Press