NFL views Spain as likely next European city to host a game, being assessed for 2024
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
The Associated Press
Published Sunday, September 24, 2023 5:41PM EDT
Spain is a strong contender to be the next international host of a regular-season NFL game and it could happen as soon as 2024.
The league is holding five games in Europe this season — three in London followed by two in Germany — and has targeted Spain and France as the next European destinations as it aggressively tries to expand its international footprint.
“We’re certainly looking at the viability of places such as Spain and France in Europe,” Brett Gosper, NFL Head of Europe and UK, told The Associated Press in an interview. “That’s why we’re always firsthand looking at stadia and cities if they align with our strategic objectives in those markets.”
Brazil is among other countries that the league has identified as potential hosts. ESPN reported Sunday that the league has sent officials to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, as well as to Madrid, to gather information.
When asked if next season is viable for a new city, Gosper said: "We don’t have enough information to say that with full confidence yet. We’re examining that possibility along with years beyond that."
Stadium availability pushes France — Paris specifically — below Spain at the moment. Paris is hosting the 2024 Olympics.
“If you are talking France, you've got the Olympics, you’ve got a little bit of uncertainty around licensing and leasing of the Stade de France, which would be the key stadium in France,” Gosper said.
“So probably Spain has the edge in terms of the practicalities that we’re looking at currently.”
Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is nearly done with major renovations that include a soccer pitch that retracts to make way for an artificial turf field that can be used for American football with a capacity over 80,000. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to host London games, has a similar system. Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium seats 68,000.
“We’re certainly having a close look at all stadia across Spain and other markets. There’s the Bernabéu, but there are other options as well," Gosper said.
Barcelona's Camp Nou is Europe’s largest soccer stadium but it is undergoing renovations.
International expansion was one reason why the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule.
London has hosted games since 2007. Last year, Munich hosted the first NFL regular-season game in Germany. Two games will be played in Frankfurt later this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are playing back-to-back games in London starting next Sunday — first a “home” game against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium followed by an “away” game against the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham.
Twenty-one teams are participating in the NFL’s global markets program in 2023 across 14 international countries. The league has expressed interest in bringing games to several of those markets and hasn’t ruled out putting a franchise overseas in the future.
Last year, league commissioner Roger Goodell even floated the idea of having a full European division of teams.
Under the global markets program, the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins have commercial rights in Spain. Earlier this year, the league granted the New Orleans Saints marketing rights in France — a first for that country.
The Dolphins are the only team with rights in Brazil.
“There's definitely a lot of interest around Europe and other parts of the world to host games, whether they be regular-season games or preseason games potentially in places where the time zone doesn't fit,” Gosper said.
“There's a lot more demand for that than there is inventory to provide,” he added.
That's why the league hopes that “some of those global market program teams will step up at some point” and move one of their home games to a new international city, he said.