NFL: Atlanta Falcons owner backs future NFL team in London
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SportsPaulH. Last Updated: 02/06/14 4:32pm
Wembley Stadium could be home to a future NFL team in London
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has backed the idea of having a London NFL team, and thinks the UK could even support two franchises in the future.
Wembley Stadium will play host to three regular season games this year, with Blank's Falcons among the six teams heading across the Atlantic to showcase their sport in front of a live European audience.
All three games have again sold out and it appears a no-brainer that it will increase to four matches in 2015, which will then increase the call for a team to be permanently based in the UK.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is known to be keen on spreading the game across the globe, and is also keen on adding a couple of teams in Los Angeles and then also the possible inclusion of London.
Blank has been full of praise for the way UK and European fans have supported the Wembley games, and feels there's enough interest for a couple of teams to be based in London.
"The games in London, I think are a tribute to the NFL, a tribute to the fans there, the quality of the game - and I think that it's proved conclusive that fans will come out when they see the real players playing games that are really meaningful, as opposed to NFL Europe," Blank told The MMQB's Peter King.
"So I think - and all three of the games for 2014 sold out immediately, 240,000 tickets - the league, as you know, has been in discussion about a fourth game, in discussion about games beyond that. There's been discussion about potentially having a franchise in London. I'm very optimistic."
After selling out three games so quickly, four games will be the logical next step next year, and if that trend continues then a team will soon follow, according to Blank.
"I think it will start with an increased number of games," he said. "That will be translated into a very successful series of games, and eventually, I think a franchise. And maybe more than one. London's a big city.
"I think eventually having that many games says that we really are playing a season in London, so we probably ought to have a team here. I think it will be a natural progression to a team."
NFL hasn't been played in LA for 20 years, and Blank thinks the game will return to the city at some point with the market too big to ignore.
"I think to not have one or more teams in LA," he added. "Over an extended period of time, on the surface it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
"So I think that eventually there will be a team in L.A. It's a matter of getting the stadium puzzle, getting the public/private partnership puzzle - getting all that worked through and worked out. I can't see the NFL ignoring the city long-term."