(Reuters) - London has moved a step closer to getting its own National Football League team, British finance minister George Osborne said on Friday, after meeting with NFL team owners, executives and players ahead of this year’s first game at Wembley Stadium.
Osborne met Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and NFL executive vice president Mark Waller at Downing Street to discuss what it would take to encourage an NFL team to base itself in London.
The idea has been in the works since last year, and Osborne and London mayor Boris Johnson have backed the plan for what would be a lucrative addition to the city’s sporting calendar.
“I want London to be the global sporting capital,” Osborne said.
”That’s why I am supporting the NFL to bring one of their 32 teams to London permanently.
“This would be a huge boost to our capital city. I‘m doing everything I can to make it happen so that London scores a touchdown.”
The NFL is one of the UK’s fastest growing sports and the three league games currently played in the capital as part of the London series have been a rousing success since they began in 2007.
The games at Wembley last season drew sellout crowds of more than 80,000 fans, for a reported total of more than $32 million (21.12 million pounds) in ticket revenue.
That figure could increase to a $155 million if a London-hosted franchise plays eight regular games a season in the capital, according to a study by Deloitte last year.
Buoyed by this success, the NFL and Tottenham Hotspur reached a 10-year deal for shared use of a new multi-sport stadium in London in July.
“Everything we experience in London highlights a huge demand for more NFL here,” Waller said.
The Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets will play in the UK for the first time this year, taking the number of NFL teams that have played regular season games in the city to 20.
“He (Osborne) ... understands the benefits that an increased NFL presence in the UK can bring economically,” Ross said.
Osborne also met NFL Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Curtis Martin and exchanged a Rugby World Cup 2015 ball and a NFL gold Superbowl 50 ball as a sign of commitment to bringing a team to London.
(The story was refiled to change the designation of George Osborne to British finance minister from British prime minister)
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty