The UK’s finance chief, George Osborne, has said that the British government will do whatever it can bring an American Football team to London.
At a meeting with NFL officials yesterday, Osborne said that the scheme had the government’s full backing and offered assistance in setting up a team in Britain.
Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Osborne said: “One of London’s massive strengths is its sporting prowess, its great football teams,” adding: “This is primarily a decision for the owners of the clubs and the NFL organisation but I’ve said to the NFL that anything the Government can do to make this happen we will do, because I think it would be a huge boost to London.”
He also said: “We could have not just the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of NFL games but also God Save The Queen.”
The NFL has been playing games at London’s Wembley Stadium every year since 2007, with three games scheduled for this year. Since these games started, the response from the British public has exceeded expectations, with crowds of up 84,000 turning out to watch top American teams, including the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants.
In a statement, the NFL said: “We warmly welcome the chancellor’s strong support for the possibility of an NFL team in London and look forward to welcoming him to a game at Wembley over the next few weeks.
“Our key priority is to continue to build our fan base in the UK so that there is strong demand for any future plans in London.”
This Sunday, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons will play at Wembley, following on from the Miami Dolphins’ 38-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders at the stadium last month. The Dallas Cowboys will also face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley next month.
Osborne said how impressed he was with the level of interested from the British public when he took his son to an NFL event on London’s Regent Street recently.
“Regent Street was absolutely packed and not just with tourists but with Londoners. They had all sorts of things to do with American Football.
“I’m going to go with my son to one of the NFL games that are coming up at Wembley in the next few weeks. I think that there’s a chance in the next few years to get an NFL team for London.
“There are 32 teams in America — and one of them could be a London team. That’s a serious prospect.”
Lions president Tom Lewand said: “Clearly there are some tremendous sports fans in the U.K., and we’ve seen the growth of our sport and the popularity amongst those great fans over the last few years.
“How much we can continue to grow that is a real opportunity in front of us. … I wouldn’t put anything past the NFL. I wouldn’t put anything past the talented people that we have in the league and I certainly can understand the desire given the popularity of a lot of different sports over here.”