NFL says it's 'on track' in 15-year plan to field London team

Thu Oct 23, 2014 1:49pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Football League is "exactly on track" with its plans to field a team in London and could have a franchise there by 2022, the league's international chief said Thursday.

Mark Waller said he believed in 2007 when the NFL first started playing in the British capital it would take 15 years to place a team there and, so far, he's encountered no stumbling blocks.

"We're at the midway point of that 15-year journey," Waller told Reuters in a telephone interview from London where the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons will play Sunday at Wembley Stadium. "I think we're exactly on track."

Sunday's affair marks the second of three sold-out games the league will play this season at Wembley, the home of England's national soccer team.

"I always thought it would take 15 years to be truly rigorous in our analysis before we get to the end of what we can deliver," said Waller.

"All of the indicators are that there's a huge level of support, there's a very good stadium, and now we're starting to realize there's a belief within British sport and British government that what we're trying to accomplish is not only attractive but doable."

Confidence in the United Kingdom that the NFL will place a team in London spiked this week when George Osborne, the British treasury chief, told the Evening Standard newspaper that the government will do whatever it can "to make this happen."

Each of the NFL games this year in London will draw more than 83,000 fans, and a fan festival on Regent Street last month drew huge crowds.   Continued...

The NFL logo and set are seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall before the start of the 2013 NFL Draft April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton