New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was a man of unpopular opinions Thursday.
Kraft, speaking on a panel promoting the new “Thursday Night Football” partnership between the NFL and CBS, said not only that he doesn’t mind Thursday games, but also (via NFL Media’s Marc Sessler) that the league “should work very hard” to field a London-based team within the next 10 years.
The NFL’s presence in Great Britain has grown steadily since the International Series was introduced in 2007. London’s Wembley Stadium scheduled to host an all-time-high three NFL games this season, and commissioner Roger Goodell, who joined Kraft and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves on the panel, believes it won’t be long before a team will be able to play — and succeed — on a full-time basis in the U.K.
“We couldn’t be happier with what we’re seeing,” Goodell said, via ProFootballTalk. “We actually couldn’t be more surprised by the tremendous demand for NFL football in London, in the UK in general, and frankly in Europe. So, it’s not something that I think is 15 or 20 years away. It could be five or 10 years away.
“The fans want to see more NFL football, and they want to see the real thing. They don’t want to see the ‘friendlies’ as they call them over there, which is preseason games. So we changed our strategy eight years ago and said, ‘Let’s play regular-season games.’ And our clubs have responded very favorably. They’ve enjoyed the experience. So, we’re anxious to do more of it. I see us continuing to play more games there, to focus on our television coverage there and expanding that, our other business efforts including licensing and sponsorship.”
The Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders will play Sept. 28 at Wembley, followed by the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 26 and Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 9. The Jaguars, who played in one of last season’s two London games, are scheduled to play at Wembley in 2015 and 2016, too.
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