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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to be sole UK host for 2021 NFL games

The NFL has today (Wednesday) announced that Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will host two games during its 2021 regular season, with the events to be the only outings for the American football league in the UK this year.

Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars will be the home teams for the games, taking on the New York Jets on October 10 and the Miami Dolphins on October 17, respectively. Both games have been scheduled for 2.30pm GMT kick offs.

Todd Kline, chief commercial officer of Tottenham Hotspur, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming the NFL back to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and to host four new teams and their fans. It will once again be a tremendous boost for London and our local economy.

“The club was thrilled with the feedback it received from the NFL, its coaches, players and fans alike after the first NFL games here in 2019. We shall be doing all we can to ensure we create even more great memories for all those that come to experience these two exciting matchups later this year.”

Today’s announcement means that Wembley Stadium, the NFL’s regular home in the UK, will not host a game this year. In March, it was announced that the NFL would change its season structure for the first time since 1978 after clubs voted to approve measures that will also usher in a new system to allocate international games.

The enhanced season will ensure that, beginning in 2022, all 32 clubs will play internationally at least once every eight years. The NFL said the scheduling of up to four neutral-site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. In addition, interested clubs can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally, as is currently the case.

While some teams, such as the Jaguars, have made multiple forays outside the US, others have played only once, or in the Green Bay Packers’ case not at all. The NFL first began playing regular-season games outside the US at Wembley in 2007. Since that point, the League had 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.

Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur holds a 10-year deal with the NFL to play a minimum of two games per season at its new ground. The stadium hosted its first games in October 2019 as the Chicago Bears faced the Oakland Raiders, and the Carolina Panthers took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The first purpose-built NFL stadium outside America, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium features a retractable grass field with an artificial NFL pitch underneath, as well as other customised designs for the League including a dedicated entrance, purpose-built dressing rooms and specialist medical and media facilities. The Spurs Shop at the Tottenham Experience also has a dedicated NFL section with merchandise on sale all year round.

Commenting on today’s news, Christopher Halpin, NFL executive vice-president – chief strategy and growth officer, said: “We are excited to be returning to London and welcoming back our fans for two great matchups. We expect these games to be a celebration of our sport and our robust UK fan base.

“We have been working closely with the UK government, the city of London and the relevant health organisations over the past year in planning the games. Through their successful vaccine rollout and commitment to bringing crowds back to sports events, the time is right for the return of NFL football this fall.

“We will continue to monitor the COVID environment, putting health and safety first, and will adhere to any and all future COVID regulations and restrictions.”

Image: Populous