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NFL: Goodell says London team nearer after triple sellout

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

London is closer to having its own National Football League team after selling out three regular-season games at Wembley Stadium for next season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday.

Two days before the Super Bowl championship spectacle in suburban New York between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, Goodell revealed the ticket sellouts and said the England support had pushed the notion of a London franchise "further down the road."

But, Goodell added, exactly what the league's next step would be to respond to that growing London interest in the NFL remained to be seen.

The NFL already added a well-received second NFL regular-season game in London in 2013, both games drawing more than 83,000 spectators, and went to a third game for the 2014 campaign.

"I believe that the response to the third game in the UK and the way that the fans have embraced that, sold that out in such a short period of time, is just another indication that the more we give fans in the UK of NFL football, the more they want," Goodell said.

"That's a great tribute to the fans there and their passion."

Taking a question from a British journalist, Goodell admitted the quick sellout hat trick had caught the NFL's attention.

"I believe you are further down the road because you are now three games into it," Goodell said. "What our next step is I don't know. That is something we're going to have to evaluate. We believe that we are going to continue to grow there and that's going to take work."

NFL teams play eight regular-season home games, so three is a far cry from that and the years of ticket buyers and sponsor commitments needed to launch a club in England.

But it has achieved the NFL's preliminary mission of sparking interest enough in the sport to consider the question of a London club.

"(We are) trying to build a fan base up for the games. It has been very successful in the UK," Goodell said.

"We're going to have to continue to invest in that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more deeply and I'm optimistic that they will continue to respond positively."

The American football invasion for 2014 will commence on September 28 when the Oakland Raiders face the Miami Dolphins. The Detroit Lions will play the Atlanta Falcons on October 26 and the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars will meet on November 9.

The Jaguars are owned by Pakistan-born American billionaire Shahid Khan, who also owns English Premier League club Fulham. They began a four-year run of playing one home game a year in London in 2013.

The Lions-Falcons game will begin in the early afternoon in England, making it an unprecedented early morning start for US NFL television viewers, opening the league a potential fourth game window on Sundays.

Goodell said that US visitors will be surprised at the attachment for NFL fans in England.

"I think you are going to be amazed at the passion for football over there. When I go over for the games in London I continue to be impressed with the knowledge of the fans over there, some of them who come from all over Europe."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140131/nfl-goodell-says-london-team-nearer-after-triple-sellout