NFL plans to bring its game to Canada
NEW ORLEANS • An NFL team in Canada may be a long way away, but Canadian football fans will likely be able to see NFL games played north of the border very soon.
The NFL will play as many as two regular- season games per year outside the United States starting in 2007, with Canada, Mexico, England and Germany as possible sites for starters.
The plan, first announced last month, was approved yesterday at the recommendation of new commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the benefits of reaching an international audience outweighed the loss of some teams’ home games.
“ We are talking about a limited number of games that we think will have a tremendous impact,” Goodell said. “ It’s in response to the growing fan interest in our game overseas. There are more and more fans on a global basis.”
Mark Waller, senior vicepresident of NFL International, said the league expected to schedule only one overseas game in 2007.
No specific sites were given for the games. However, Waller said the league hoped to announce the first site by this coming Super Bowl, while the teams would be selected later.
“ Germany has a large number of sites as it has just done the World Cup. UK has a significant number of great sites,” Waller said. “ We know the sites in Mexico and Canada, so there’s no shortage of venues that are interested in these games.”
Tom Wright told The Canadian Press yesterday that his league was up to speed with the NFL’s plans to hold regular- season games outside the U. S. and was sure an NFL game in Canada would not negatively impact CFL operations.
“ The NFL has really been a valued partner of ours and a really consistent supporter ( of the CFL) for the past 10- plus years,” Wright said. “ We’ve worked together with them, there’s a strong sense of co- operation and mutual understanding.
“ From where we sit, the strength and the vitality of our league and development of football are our most important goals. The NFL respects and supports these goals, and I’m sure any initiative that comes forward into Canada will be within that spirit.”
Wright declined to speculate on whether the NFL’s announcement could be seen as a precursor to NFL expansion into Canada.
“ That’s a long way down the road,” Wright said. “ The NFL has provided us with assurances, and they’ve confirmed that a regular- season game wouldn’t even come to Canada until 2008 at the earliest.”
The plan would be set up so that teams would rotate over a 16- year period, with each team playing outside the country twice over that span, once as a visitor, the other as a home team. That means a team would lose one home team during that span.
“ Obviously, the league is going to work out the economics and if we lose a home game, we’ll get compensated,” said Edmonton- raised Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos. “ We’re comfortable with it. Obviously, we’d like to play in Mexico or Canada and not have to travel to Europe, and that’s probably the way it would be set up because of our location. But as far as the league is concerned, I think it’s a great idea.”
In 2005, the NFL staged its first regular- season game outside the United States when the Arizona Cardinals played host to the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. A crowd of 103,467 flocked to Azteca Stadium, the largest crowd for a regular- season game in NFL history.
The league also has played numerous exhibition games overseas for the past two decades. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will play a preseason game next August in Beijing.
QUICK NFL HITS
The New York Giants’ home game against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 12 has been moved to 8: 15 p. m. on NBC as part of the first week of the NFL’s flexible scheduling plan. The Giants- Bears game was originally scheduled to start at 1 p. m. on Fox. Week 10 of the NFL’s regular season marks the first use of flexible scheduling, which was included in the league’s broadcast agreements to ensure quality matchups in the Sunday primetime television slots. … Maurice Carthon resigned as Cleveland’s offensive co- ordinator yesterday, two days after the Browns’ NFL- worst offence managed just one touchdown and seven points in a loss to Denver. … New York Giants linebacker LaVar Arrington is out for the season after tearing his left Achilles’ tendon in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. … Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham will miss three to four weeks following surgery yesterday to repair a torn lower abdominal muscle. THE QUARTERBACK CLUB: TERRY BRADSHAW TALKS IN OTTAWA; STEELERS’ BEN ROETHLISBERGER LISTED AS QUESTIONABLE, PAGE D5