Prior to 2005, the NFL's primary method of promoting its game abroad was through the American Bowl, a series of preseason games played around the world, and the NFL Europe League, a developmental league based in Europe. The American Bowls ended in 2005 (though a similar China Bowl was planned for 2007 before being cancelled), while NFL Europe folded in 2007.
Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, has considered expanding the league's appeal overseas ever since the end of NFL Europa. Goodell has openly discussed the idea of holding a future Super Bowl game in London. The NFL also investigated the possibility of adding a 17th regular season game to all teams, taking the place of the fourth pre-season game. Waller notes that there won't be 16 different venues for the 17th games. More likely would be a "mini-season ticket" of perhaps four games in one city or country. There was discussion that this "17th game" could take effect as early as the 2009 NFL season; however, 2010 would be the earliest this could be implemented because of concerns about playing on Labor Day or over the 2010 Winter Olympics, the league's rigid scheduling formula, and the league's collective bargaining agreement (CBA). League officials were pondering moving a second existing game abroad for the 2010 season, but eventually abandoned it due to the ongoing CBA negotiations. The league eventually abandoned their desire to expand the NFL season in the CBA negotiations, and the new CBA enacted in 2011 keeps the NFL schedule at 16 games.
Games in the United Kingdom are broadcast on Sky Sports with a HD option and also on the BBC with BBC Two showing the first half and BBC Three the second half, with colour commentary by Jerry Rice. On radio, the games are broadcast by BBC Radio 5 Live, with Arlo White commentating.
Typically, the games in Europe are played on the last weekend of October. Normally this is the same weekend as Major League Baseball's World Series (although in 2009, this was not the case because the World Series played one week later than usual); until 2010, that week had no Sunday night game, allowing for the International Series to be the featured game of the day. The International Series games are always played at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time to account for time zone differences. Games played in Canada or Mexico would not be subject to these restrictions. Also, on the last Sunday in October, daylight saving time ends in Europe, one week earlier than it ends in the United States. Because of this, a game with in London a 1:00 pm EDT kickoff would begin at 5:00 pm local time instead of 6:00 pm.
From 2007 to 2010, all games have featured one team from each conference.
Teams that are selected to give up a home game to play overseas are typically franchises that have been struggling with attendance at home games. In an effort to promote season ticket sales, this allows teams to sell a cheaper season ticket package that contains only seven games rather than the usual eight.
In 2011 the game will be played a week earlier than normal and will therefore kickoff at 6pm BST rather than the usual 5pm. 2011 is also the first year that the game will feature two teams from the same conference.
On 11 October 2011, the NFL owners approved playing NFL games in Great Britain through the year 2016. The proposed second game would begin as soon as 2012, although that date was ruled out in part due to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
On October 2, 2005, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31–14 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, under the name NFL Fútbol Americano. It was the first regular season NFL game held outside of the United States. The game drew the NFL's highest game attendance at the time with 103,467 spectators.
The Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in London, England on October 28, 2007. The Giants defeated the Dolphins 13–10 in the first regular season NFL game held outside of North America. The first 40,000 tickets sold out for the game in the first 90 minutes of sales.
The game was aired on Fox, but was not available nationwide in the United States. Portions of the midwestern and Rocky Mountain areas of the United States did not get to see the game on television.
Like the 2007 game, this matchup was not seen nationally, having only regional coverage on CBS. However, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, the network's top announcing team, were assigned to the game, and opening ceremonies were carried live before cutting away to local games.
The New England Patriots defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35–7 in the 2009 edition in front of 84,254 in attendance. The game was televised regionally in the United States by CBS and on Sky Sports and BBC One in the United Kingdom. CBS broadcaster Phil Simms noted during the opening of the game that "the fans in London came up to him and said they were more excited about this game than the previous two." It's most notably because the New England Patriots have a massive fan base in the United Kingdom and the fact that QB Tom Brady was the center of attention by the British media from the moment the Patriots arrived in London, more than the designated "home" team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose owner, Malcolm Glazer, also owns Manchester United. 
On October 31, 2010, the game was again played at London's Wembley Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers won by a score of 24 to 16 over the Denver Broncos. The weather, like the first 2007 NFL International Series game between the Dolphins and the Giants, was rainy throughout the day (but went on to clear up as the game itself approached). The game itself was a slow burner until the final period when it exploded into life. With Denver looking to steal the 'away' win, the 49ers, led by Troy Smith went on to take a 24-10 lead late in the game and went on to take the win 24-16. As an AFC team (Denver) was the visiting team, the game was once again carried on CBS.
The NFL announced on April 18, 2011, that the 2011 International Series game would feature the Chicago Bears facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 23 (one week earlier than usual), with the Buccaneers serving as the home team. Had the NFL lockout not been resolved by August 1, it would have reverted back to Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium; the lockout was lifted on July 25, allowing the game to go forward. The game was the first in the International Series, other than the Fútbol Americano game, to feature two teams from the same conference (the NFC); a similar break from tradition was planned for the ultimately canceled Hall of Fame Game that year, which would have also featured the Bears. No reason was given for the change in either game. As both teams are NFC teams, the game was televised on Fox. The Bears dominated the 1st half, and won 24-18.
2012 to 2014
On 20th January 2012, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that from 2012 to 2014, the St. Louis Rams would play one of its eight home games each year at Wembley Stadium. The first of those games will be on Sunday, October 28, 2012, against one of their interconference opponents, the New England Patriots. Goodell had previously proposed the use of certain regular teams in the International Series in an effort to build a fan base for those teams, raising the prospect of a permanent NFL team on the British Isles.
|Date||Television||Designated Visitors||Score||Designated Home||Score||Stadium||City||Crowd|
|October 2, 2005||ESPN||San Francisco 49ers||14||Arizona Cardinals||31||Estadio Azteca||Mexico City||103,467|
|October 28, 2007||FOX||New York Giants||13||Miami Dolphins||10||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London||81,176|
|October 26, 2008||CBS||San Diego Chargers||32||New Orleans Saints||37||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London||83,226|
|October 25, 2009||CBS||New England Patriots||35||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London||84,254|
|October 31, 2010||CBS||Denver Broncos||16||San Francisco 49ers||24||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London||83,941|
|October 23, 2011||FOX||Chicago Bears||24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||18||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London||76,981|
|October 28, 2012||CBS||New England Patriots||St. Louis Rams||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London|
|2013||TBA||TBA||St. Louis Rams||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London|
|2014||TBA||TBA||St. Louis Rams||Wembley Stadium||22x20px London|
Before the Chargers and Saints were announced to be the two teams headed to London in 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks were identified as teams interested in playing a future game in Europe. In particular, Seattle, which had been slated to play the China Bowl before that game was cancelled, had shown a continued interest in playing a game abroad. Tampa Bay eventually got the 2009 and 2011 games. Both the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins have similarly expressed interest in returning to the UK in a rematch of 2007's international series. There have also been negotiations between the Pittsburgh Steelers (whose owner, Dan Rooney, is the United States Ambassador to Ireland) and Croke Park in Dublin, Republic of Ireland for a potential International Series game there, possibly as early as 2012.
The Rams, Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns are all under co-ownership with teams in the English Premier League, the top soccer league in England; the Rams are under co-ownership with the Arsenal Football Club of London, while the Buccaneers are co-owned with Manchester United and the Browns are co-owned with Aston Villa Football Club of Birmingham.
Within the British Isles, aside from London, potential candidates for hosting NFL games include Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales; Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland; and the aforementioned Croke Park in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Outside the Isles, other prime areas to get games would be Germany; Mexico; and Canada (Canada already hosts the Bills Toronto Series). Mark Waller, NFL senior vice president, international, doubts Asia or Australia would be targeted because of the travel concerns, but he doesn't dismiss anything. The St. Louis Rams agreement stipulated that all future International Series games in the current agreement would take place at Wembley, ruling out other locations. The league has stated that if games in Great Britain are successful, the league will then attempt to expand to continental Europe.
The Buffalo Bills received a unanimous vote of approval to play one regular season game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario from 2008-2012, and a pre-season game in every other year, beginning in 2008. This will be separate from the regular International Series.
- Associated Press. NFL commissioner says Super Bowl may someday be held in London ESPN.com, 15 October 2007.
- Associated Press. NFL looking closely at expanding to 17 games with international flavor ESPN.com, 10 May 2007.
- NFL opts not to hold second game in UK in 2010.
- NFL owners OK games in Britain through 2016 - ESPN.com
- Goodell: Some NFL teams could be London regulars. Associated Press. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
- Associated Press. 3 AFC, 3 NFC teams named possible 'hosts' in Europe ESPN.com, 8 January 2007.
- Associated Press. Despite poor weather and a sluggish game, the stadium remained packed and in good cheer for the entire match. Dolphins will play Giants in London on Oct. 28 ESPN.com, 2 February 2007.
- Associated Press. Chargers-Saints game in London official; Bills to play some games in Toronto ESPN.com, 1 February 2008 Cite error: Invalid
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- Detroit Free Press, Monday, November 1, 2010, page 6c
- Battista, Judy (2011-04-18 accessdate=2011-04-18). "Lockout Could Jeopardize Game Set for London". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/sports/football/19sportsbriefs-LOCKOUTCOULD_BRF.html.
- NFL UK. ST. LOUIS RAMS TO HOST REGULAR-SEASON GAME IN UNITED KINGDOM IN EACH OF NEXT THREE YEARS NFLUK.com, 20 January 2012.
- Mortensen, Chris. Source: Bills likely to get OK to play game in Toronto ESPN.com, 20 January 2008.
- Fahey, Cian (January 28, 2011). Croke Park Director addresses the NFL's visit to Ireland. Irish Central. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- "NFL ponders second UK game option". BBC News. May 13, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/american_football/8047096.stm.
- . http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/murrayfieldstadium/Murrayfield-is-game-for-NFL.3943437.jp.
- Associated Press. Bills to play annual regular-season game in Toronto starting next season ESPN.com, 1 February 2008.
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