NFL watches games in Spain and France amid international growth

MUNICH — The NFL is looking to continue its European tour after Germany joined Britain as hosts.

Spain and France are high on the wish list for the league, which continues to seek revenue growth internationally.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 9-16 at the Allianz Arena on Sunday — a first for Germany under a four-year deal that the league hopes to extend long-term. London have hosted regular season games since 2007.

Beyond Germany, which could also be getting additional games soon, the league’s analysis of fan growth and commercial potential puts Spain and France “very heavily on our radar,” said Brett Gosper, NFL head of UK and Europe, in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We have to do our homework to make sure there’s an opportunity to land games in these markets, gauge the interest of the host stadiums, the interest of the host city, even the government, by their willingness to help, we’re bringing a game,” said gosper

Spain has a slight advantage because the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins now have “home marketing” rights in the country. The NFL has split international rights to interested teams from 10 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Mexico and the United Kingdom. In France, no teams have rights.

“When you know that teams are in action [the international rights program]They want to look at the prospects and viability of potentially having games in those markets at some point,” Gosper said.

There are five international games this season: three in London, one in Munich and one on Monday in Mexico City when the Arizona Cardinals take on the San Francisco 49ers.

International expansion was one of the reasons the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. The league has committed to playing four international games each season, and teams are required to play one “home game” abroad every eight seasons.

Aside from that commitment, a team with rights in a country can choose to play home games there like the Jacksonville Jaguars do in London. The Jags have played nine times in the British capital and are currently on a three-year deal for an annual home game at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium.

“A team could choose to do that. That’s a real possibility, but again not imminent,” Gosper said.

“Certainly over the next six to 12 months we will really test the viability of our options from a stadium perspective – not just in Europe but elsewhere – and then at the same time see what the appetite is for clubs to potentially exploit those markets with one game.”

In Spain, Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is undergoing a major refurbishment, including a football pitch that can be retracted to make way for an artificial turf pitch that can be used for American football with a capacity of over 80,000. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to host games in London, has a similar system. Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium has a capacity of 68,000.

Camp Nou is Europe’s largest football stadium with a capacity of 99,000, but Barcelona plan to embark on a long-delayed renovation project that will last until 2026. The city’s Montjuic Olympic Stadium seats approximately 56,000 and was once home to the NFL Europa League’s Barcelona Dragons.

Gosper said that given the NFL’s large Spanish-speaking fan base, there are “a lot of synergies” with Spain. Nine teams have marketing rights in Mexico.

The Stade de France north of Paris has a capacity of just over 80,000 for football matches.

“France is a little bit outside of that, and it’s its own market and culture,” Gosper said, “but at the same time it’s an incredibly strong sports media market where returns could be higher and faster than Spain.”

“These are two very healthy media markets, healthy sports markets, some strong indicators from our streaming platform as well as our consumer sales. If you analyze the data a little, these are certainly two markets with high potential.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the Nordic markets would be next and “particularly Sweden,” Gosper said. The country’s largest stadium, Friends Arena, has 50,000 fans.

In August 1988, the Bears played the Minnesota Vikings in a preseason game at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium.

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