NFL happy after passing latest UK tests with 'flying colours'

Reuters/Action Images/Paul Childs

The head of NFL UK believes London has taken another big step towards one day having a team of its own, but has cautioned there is still a long way to go in the process.

On Sunday, 83,624 packed into Wembley to see the Kansas City Chiefs rout the Detroit Lions 45-10, the third London game of the year and the second in eight days after another sell-out crowd had watched the Jacksonville Jaguars edge out the Buffalo Bills 34-31 last week.

Earlier this month, the NFL announced new deals which mean that, from 2018 when Tottenham's new stadium will stage games alongside Wembley, London will host at least four games per season.

These are all developments which suggest the London project is well on track, so much so that NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood is now trying to manage expectations rather than build them.

"We've had 39,000 season-ticket holders coming to all three games, we've had back-to-back games which is a concept which four or five years ago would have sounded quite daunting, and we've done it at a time when the Rugby World Cup is on and we're up against some unbelievable Premier League games," Kirkwood told Press Association.

"If you're plotting it in terms of the life cycle of the NFL in the UK, this has been an important step and we've passed it with flying colours.

"All the metrics say we're continuing to grow at decent speed but now we're among the big boys, playing multiple games and executing at a high level, people are probably going to get a little bit impatient for it to move even quicker."

NFL UK officials have described the goal of bringing a team to London as a 15-year project. Dating back to the first International Series game at Wembley in 2007, they are halfway through that timeframe.

With work still to be done, Kirkwood said: "I think every single year we're proving something new to ourselves. In the last three years we've gone from one game a year to two, two to three, and then three with back-to-back games during a Rugby World Cup.

"Every year there is something new. If the whole point is feeling good about the end game and certain about the likelihood of success, every single year we're answering further questions and getting closer to it."

The immediate next question is what the 2016 holds. A plan would usually have been announced by now, but with the NFL discussing proposals to add games in Mexico City and perhaps Germany as well, there are added complications to the delicate art of drawing up the league's schedule.

"I've learned in recent years how much pressure we put on the schedule, because every team that comes has a home game beforehand and a bye week after," Kirkwood said.

"We have a reasonable idea of the types of match-ups we're looking at but we still have work to do. I'd like to think we can announce it later this month but it's still a work in progress."