The New England Patriots, whose symbol is that of a Revolutionary War Minuteman, are now set to invade Wembley Stadium with the St Louis Rams in 2012. The NFL announced today that the game will take place on October 28th, with a start time of 1:00pm ET(5:00pm UK).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had this to say about games in the United Kingdom:
“The response to NFL games in the U.K. by our British fans has been exceptional. We are confident that having the Rams host one game in the U.K. in each of the next three seasons will help us to better serve the growing popularity of our sport beyong the borders of the United States.”
New England Patriots Owner and Chairman Robert Kraft was pleased with the announcement as well:
“We are honored to be selected for this year’s game and eager to return. We had such a great experience during our last visit to London. We are proud to have great support from our fans when we are on the road. The United Kingdom is home to some of our most passionate Patriots fans, including the UKPatriots, who are among our most active fan clubs overall, not just overseas. We look forward to another memorable experience.”
The Patriots previously played at Wembley Stadium in 2009. In that game, they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 35-7 before a crowd of 84,254, the largest such crowd since the NFL in the U.K. series of games began.
To date, the series has managed to increase NFL fan interest in the United Kingdom, bringing the total to around 11 million fans, with more than 2 million of those fans being avid followers. This is an increase in the last two years of 32%. There has also been a large growth in television viewing numbers. NFL games on Sundays have seen an increase of 154% overall. The Super Bowl has also seen a large increase of 74% since 2006, when the series began.
After the announcement was made, Chris Parsons, NFL Vice President of International said:
“When the initial resolution to play international regular-season games was approved in 2006, the thinking at the time was that we would have two new teams every year. As the series evolved, we saw that having a team return to the U.K. on a regular basis would increase fan interest for that particular team, which in turn would drive fan growth for the entire league. We are incredibly excited to introduce a young, talented team like the Rams to our U.K. fans. And to do so against a team with the rich history and tradition of the Patriots makes it even more exciting.”
For the 2012 season, the Patriots and Rams will be the only game played in the U.K. The possibility exists that if these games continue to be successful, we may see it expand to two games each year, or possibly, a full time NFL team located someplace in the British Isles.