The English Premier League has been debating the issue of soccer’s “39th Game” for some time. The idea is to take a regular league fixture abroad to promote the game further and give a new audience the chance to witness a live game that matters, rather than an exhibition. The NFL, meanwhile, have already been experimenting with the same idea. To great success. Last weekend, American Football fans in England were able to watch top-class Gridiron action without having to travel across the globe to do so. The NFL journeyed to their backyard for the third time this season.
Unsurprisingly, there was an initial reluctance of some franchises in America to give up home matches. Marketing abroad helps financial growth, but the lifeblood of any team is its home support. Fans still flock from around the world and there are tickets available here for those who wish to see the game in its natural habitat.
The International Series has been such a hit in the UK, though, that plans have been made for something of a London takeover next year. Fixtures will be hosted on three back-to-back weekends in 2015. The Guardian reports that the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions will all return following their trip to the UK this year and the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs will journey across the pond for the first time.
Indeed, the Jaguars in particular are attempting to build a UK fanbase by making four annual trips to England’s capital. The second of these was last weekend: a 31-17 reverse against the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks to the warm embrace given by the British public, not only have these games become a regular feature of an NFL season over the last few years but a new twist of spice could be added to season the product. Rumours abound that London wants its own franchise side. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan refuted claims that he is planning for his side to move to the UK, though.
“We have no plans to move at this time,” he said. “The Jaguars are the smallest club and we needed more fans. Going overseas has been a win-win. There is demand for NFL football here and we can help with that.”
That demand ensured that all this year’s International Series games in the UK were sell-outs months before they were played. Next year’s look set to be the same. In the meantime, tickets are still available here for fixtures in the USA.