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NFL Extends, Sets to Expand Regular Season in UK Series

The NFL has extended its series playing regular season games in the United Kingdom. This was announced yesterday. The league is going to look at potentially expanding its package to more than the current one game per year. A rumor is out there, although not explicitly stated in the NFL's press release announcing the news, the league will compensate teams for giving up home games. In other words, teams will be rewarded for taking games away from their most diehard fans.

This is done in the name of money. The league can gain more fans in the UK by putting its product out there. That means more people will spend money on merchandise, television deals will be more lucrative, and other good business stuff. It is expanding the customer base. I would imagine the league would eventually hope generate enough fans to expand to put taems in Europe eventually. Since the NFL only plays games once a week, it is more feasible than in other sports like basketball and hockey.

This stinks for fans who lose home games. Part of me hopes the Jets are the road team for one of these games, though, because it seems like a fun excuse for a European vacation.

The entire press release from yesterday is under the jump.

NFL owners today approved a resolution to continue playing regular-season games in the United Kingdom through the 2016 season.

Today’s vote, which came at the league’s fall business meeting in Houston, authorizes the league to schedule regular-season games in the U.K. in each of the next five years (2012-2016), including to determine the number of games per season, the venues, and the competing teams.

The new resolution:

Allows teams to volunteer to play at least one regular-season game per year as a home team in the U.K. for up to five years.

Enables the league to determine the appropriate number of U.K. games per season, based on the popularity of the sport in the market and the number of teams that volunteer to play as a home team.

"The response to NFL games being played in the U.K. continues to be exceptional," said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. "Because of the outstanding support of our British fans, we are confident that hosting additional games in the U.K. will be well received and support our goal of bringing football to more fans in the U.K. and beyond."

"When the initial resolution was approved in 2006, the thinking at the time was that we would have two new teams every year," said NFL Vice President of International CHRIS PARSONS. "As the series evolved, we felt as though having a team return to the U.K. on a regular basis would certainly increase the fan base for that particular team, which in turn would drive fan growth for the entire league. We think there is a tremendous benefit for a team to return to the U.K. on an annual basis."

The international series of regular-season games to date has contributed to increased NFL fan interest in the U.K., with a current fan base of 11 million, including more than 2 million avid fans, a 32% increase in the past two years.

Television ratings have also shown tremendous growth – with Sunday viewership of NFL games up 91% and the Super Bowl audience increased 74% since 2006 – while the league has developed new and stronger business partnerships.

NFL owners approved a resolution in 2006 to present up to two international regular-season games per season from 2007-2011. The new resolution is U.K.-focused and permits the NFL the flexibility to decide the number of U.K. games from year to year.

This year’s game on October 23 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears will be the fifth NFL regular-season game played at London’s Wembley Stadium and is the final one as part of the initial resolution.