American Football: NFL could touch down in London

London could stage a regular-season American football game as early as 2007 following a vote among NFL owners to include contests played overseas in their schedule.

The vote, which took place late on Tuesday night in New Orleans, endorsed a proposal to stage one game abroad next year, with at least two more per annum over the next four seasons. It is possible the UK could host three such contests over the next five years.

The countries competing most strongly for the right to stage games are the UK, Germany, Mexico and Canada. A number of factors strengthen the British hand. The NFL owners are known to favour a truly "international" event to launch the initiative, which would mitigate against their two neighbours.

Germany, which is also a front-runner, faces a busy 2007 as a result of a major restructuring of the NFL Europe League, which has five German franchises.

The British cause is helped by the signing earlier this season of a four-year deal with Sky Sports to broadcast NFL games. The deal is reported to be worth $50m (£26m), making it the sport's richest TV contract anywhere outside the United States.

The NFL's London office has campaigned vigorously for British involvement over the past 18 months, and last year Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, visited New York to discuss logistics with Roger Goodell, the new NFL commissioner.

London is thus favourite to stage the game. The NFL is also aware of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, although a match outside the capital provides lesser appeal.

The venue for the 2007 match will be announced before February's Super Bowl. The likely teams will be announced later, although logistics would indicate an East Coast team from a major city with good airline connections to London.

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