PHOENIX (Reuters) - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Friday the growth in popularity of American football in Britain was “better than we ever dreamed” but he gave no sign of a franchise going there.
Speaking in his annual pre-Super Bowl ‘State of the League’ address, Goodell twice evaded questions about the prospects for a team in London.
“London has done not only everything that we expected but more than we expected, they are responding to the game better than we ever dreamed with more enthusiasm, more passion,” he said.
“You see it every year, the passion, the understanding of the game, every event that we have explodes with interest,” said the National Football League chief.
The league now has three regular-season games at Wembley Stadium and has been building political connections, with mayor Boris Johnson and Chancellor George Osborne enthusiastic in their support.
“We are continuing to advance our interests over there from the standpoint of playing more games.” said Goodell.
“The passion is obvious, we want to continue to respond to that fan interest and if we do – - we don’t know where it will go but there is great potential in London for the NFL.”
The league will switch to earlier kickoffs for all three of the London games next year, creating a new Sunday morning viewing slot on the U.S East Coast.
But Goodell said there was no link between that move and the chances of a team being created in London.
“I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the long term future, of whether a franchise is there,” he said.
The NFL has its eyes on growth elsewhere too - - a regular season game was played in Mexico City in 2005 but teams have not returned south of the border.
“We have tremendous fans in Mexico, we had great experience with a regular season game down there.
”We want to get back there and play more games there. It is a combination of stadium availabilities, making sure that we can do it at the standards and level that we expect. When we do it we want to do it well.
“We have had a tremendous amount of focus in London but we are looking at other markets, including Mexico and we certainly hope we are going to be back there soon.”
Editing by Gene Cherry