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NFL ‘to implement’ new international game strategy

NFL team owners are set to vote on a new system for international play that would assign at least four games to stadia outside the US each season, according to multiple reports.

The scheme is set be discussed at the American football league’s owners’ meetings scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday. It will be tied into another proposal that would see the NFL regular season expand to 17 games per team.

The Athletic website said that if approved, the earliest the plan would start is in the 2022 season. The proposal would see each of the NFL’s 32 clubs travel outside of the US at least once every eight years in place of a home game. While some teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars have made multiple forays outside the US, others have played only once, or in the Green Bay Packers’ case not at all.

The international games proposal is dependent on the owners voting to expand the regular season, with the extra home fixtures being rotated between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC).

In alternating years, the NFC will reportedly have nine home games, followed by the AFC. It is from the group of extra home games that the NFL would assign the mandatory four overseas events proposed by the international, finance and competition committees. However, other teams would still be able to offer to take games abroad.

The NFL first began playing regular-season games outside the US at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2007. Since that point, the League has scheduled a further 37 international games, with 27 in London, six in Toronto and four in Mexico City.

The NFL was last season forced to cancel its international games, with the decision taken to keep the League in the US amid COVID-19. The NFL had been scheduled to play one game at the Estadio Azteca and two each at Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during the 2020 season. The Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Jaguars and Miami Dolphins had been due to serve as home teams during these fixtures.

The Jaguars had been due to become the first NFL team to play multiple ‘home’ games outside the US in the same regular season, having been pencilled in to host two fixtures at Wembley. The Jaguars have taken one ‘home’ game to London every year since 2013 as part of a long-term arrangement.

Speaking during last month’s Super Bowl, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the League intends to resume international play this season. However, The Athletic said this will likely see London limited to two games, with both at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium due to Wembley’s hosting agreement having expired.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosted its first NFL games in 2019. The stadium is fitted with a dedicated NFL pitch and will stage at least two games a season as part of a 10-year deal between Tottenham and the NFL.