(from USA Today, September 19, 2013) In 2007, the NFL set sail, introducing American football to a new British fan base. Since then, an international admiration has grown rapidly at Wembley Stadium. However, the NFL’s head of international business does not believe London is ready for a full time team to stay. Chris Parsons, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of International Business, said, “We’d like to continue to grow our fan base even more aggressively.” He believes the loyalty must double from where it is today and continue to grow in the UK before a team is considered to settle.
This year, the international series will host two games in London. On September 29th, the Minnesota Vikings will face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Four weeks later, the Jacksonville Jaguars will play the San Francisco 49ers on October 27th. The Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed to play at least one game in London until the year 2016. In addition, if the NFL international committee decides to develop overseas, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a main target for relocation. Wembley Stadium will host each game with a maximum capacity of 84,500 people. Fortunately, tickets for both games were virtual sellouts within two weeks.
From his employment in the league, Parsons has reviewed collected data displaying exponential fan base growth. Furthermore, in the United Kingdom, 11.3 million people have officially declared themselves NFL fans according to Vikings’ Vice President of Public Affairs, Lester Bagley. Mr. Bagley stated, “They love the NFL, and they love the real thing…They love the real, competitive, intense drama of NFL football.” Parsons admires the significant amount of fans they have identified in the UK and plans to communicate with them on a frequent basis through the NFL databases. “When we stack ourselves up against sports in the UK… we’ve gone from well outside the top 10 to now inside the top 10 in terms of fan numbers and in terms of viewing figures,” stated Parsons. Parsons is positive a significant amount of fans will continue to watch the games week in, and week out.