January 12 – The rapidly growing partnership between the NFL and UK fans of the sport breaks new ground later this year when Tottenham Hotspur’s new 61,000-seat stadium hosts an NFL fixture for the first time when the Seattle Seahawks play the Oakland Raiders on October 14.
The club have secured a 10-year deal with the NFL to stage two games a season in their yet-to-be-named state-of-the-art new home, which is being custom-built for both the round-ball game and American football.
Tottenham, temporarily playing home fixtures at Wembley stadium, are due to move to their new ground, on an adjacent site to their previous home, for the start of next season and NFL games will be played on an artificial surface that sits beneath the retractable grass pitch.
Wembley, which has been regular UK host for NFL games, will stage the Philadelphia Eagles against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans versus the LA Chargers later in October.
Since the NFL started playing games in London in 2007 the idea of having a team based in the city has gained momentum.
Mark Waller, NFL executive vice-president of events and international, says it might work. The NFL have already staged 21 regular-season games in London and Waller believes a franchise could be possible in the next “four to five years”. With Spurs having engineered their ground to specifically cater for NFL games, they would be clear favourites to host the franchise.
“The beauty of our season is that we play once a week and we only play 16 games,” said Waller. “We are able to contemplate something as audacious as having a team in London”.
“We are very excited about playing our first game at Tottenham’s magnificent new stadium and will follow our usual pattern of playing one game in our first season at a new venue, as we did at Wembley and Twickenham in previous years. This enables us to achieve important learnings relating to the fans’ preferences, ticketing, team logistics and local transportation and infrastructure in order to create the best possible experience and environment.”
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, a canny businessman who has worked closely with Waller on the project, believes the site will suit American football perfectly.
“If it ever got to a stage where the NFL decided it wanted to have a permanent team in London, it would be their stadium as opposed to an NFL team feeling they’re renting Tottenham’s stadium,” Levy has been quoted as saying.
“I have lived and breathed this project from day one. It is absolutely my ambition to make this work.”
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