Rams to be London regulars
The St Louis Rams will play a game in the UK for the next three years, starting with the New England Patriots in October.
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH
Last Updated: 20/01/12 4:32pm
In what could be a huge step towards an NFL team being based in London, the St Louis Rams have signed up to play a regular season home game at Wembley for the next three years.
The Rams will face the New England Patriots on October 28 in the sixth NFL International Series game at Wembley, which will be the only game being staged in the UK this year.
There had been talk of multiple games being played as the sport continues to grow across the Atlantic, but the NFL have taken another route in naming a team to make regular visits.
"The response to NFL games in the UK among our British fans has been exceptional," said commissioner Roger Goodell, who has in the past said an NFL team could one day be permanently based in the UK.
"We are confident that having the Rams host one game in the UK in each of the next three seasons will allow us to better serve the growing popularity of our sport beyond the borders of the United States."
NFL owners approved a resolution last year to commit to staging regular season games in the UK for the next five years, with the number of games, venue and the teams competing all being flexible.
The main sticking point is home teams have to give up a home game back in America, but the Rams have taken the step of committing to playing one game in the UK for the next three years.
"This is a tremendous honor for our franchise, the city of St. Louis and our fans throughout the world," said Rams owner Stanley Kroenke, who is also majority shareholder of Arsenal.
"We are excited about the opportunity to reach new audiences globally. This is a great platform to showcase the city of St. Louis to London and the UK.
"We've seen first-hand the increased popularity of the NFL not only in London but throughout Europe. To play a role in that growth over the next three years will be incredible and is a testament to the many good things happening not only in the NFL but also in the St Louis Rams organisation."
The Rams kick-off their three-year tenure in the UK at Wembley Stadium against the New England Patriots, who are currently the best-supported NFL team in the UK.
Tom Brady and the Pats have played in London before, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley in 2009, and they could play this October as Super Bowl champions as they face Baltimore on Sunday in the AFC Championship.
"We are honored to be selected for this year's game and eager to return," said New England Patriots chairman Robert Kraft. "We had such a great experience during our last visit to London.
"We are proud to have great support from our fans when we are on the road. The United Kingdom is home to some of our most passionate Patriots fans, including the UKPatriots, who are among our most active fan clubs overall, not just overseas. We look forward to another memorable experience."
The Rams had another poor season in the NFL, but they did have severe injury problems and have hired legendary Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, who many believe could turn their fortunes around.
The games in London have contributed to an increased popularity of NFL in the UK, and the league believes having a regular team coming over will only strengthen fans involvement.
"When the initial resolution to play international regular-season games was approved in 2006, the thinking at the time was that we would have two new teams every year," said NFL Vice President of International Chris Parsons.
"As the series evolved, we saw that having a team return to the UK on a regular basis would increase fan interest for that particular team, which in turn would drive fan growth for the entire league. We are incredibly excited to introduce a young, talented team like the Rams to our UK fans. And to do so against a team with the rich history and tradition of the Patriots makes it even more exciting."