The NFL has announced the fifth installment of the Pepsi Max International Series game in London, England. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will surrender a home game to play the Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, October 23rd.
This is the second trip to London for each team. The 6:00 PM local time kickoff will provide the early game on the Fox broadcast at 1:00 PM ET.
This game has garnered interest from fans in Europe as well as those that travel from the United States. Due to the high demand, the NFL has set up a “registry of interest” that will launch later this week at www.nfluk.com. Registrants will be granted an opportunity to purchase tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.
The NFL appears to be firmly committed to expanding their international presence with games being played abroad. They have held games in Mexico, and have discussed entering the Asia market.
“Our past four games in London have demonstrated the tremendous passion for NFL football that exists in the UK,” stated NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We hope by staging another extraordinary game at Wembley that we can continue to grow our existing fan base and attract even more new fans.”
Aside from drawing the local crowd, the game receives media placement on Sky Sports and BBC Radio, with highlights on BBC TV.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, shared his excitement at having the major sporting event return to his city. “Continuing London’s love affair with the hugely popular stateside sport, we are proud to once again welcome two of America’s top NFL teams to the capital. With a growing local fan base, it is a fantastic opportunity for enthusiasts from London and beyond to experience the unique thrill of a live game in one of the most iconic sports venues around, Wembley Stadium.”
Despite drawing mixed emotions from local fans that lose one of their eight regular season home games, the teams continue to speak highly of the opportunity.
Tampa Bay co-chairman Bryan Glazer claimed “we are honored to be selected to participate in the NFL International Series for a second time. We are looking forward to promoting Tampa Bay’s emerging young team on the world stage. We have the longest running fan club of any NFL team in the UK and look forward to seeing so many familiar faces from the Bucs UK fan club at the game.”
The Bears were one of the first franchises to take the sport to Europe. Their preseason game at Wembley Stadium in 1986 was the first NFL game played in Europe, as the NFL began to introduce the live game to the world. This served as a testing ground for NFL Europe, which ran from 1991 – 2007.
“To return to London to play an NFL game – this is going to be fun. I remember how enthusiastic the fans were in 1986 when we played in Wembley Stadium and defeated the Dallas Cowboys. London fans were so welcoming and blended their traditions of singing soccer songs with the NFL-style of presenting games,” said Chicago Bears Chairman Michael McCaskey. “Of course the Chicago Bears are very pleased to have been named the ‘Team of the Year’ by UK fans following the 2010 season. So we are looking forward to facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October and playing in person before our terrific fans in the UK and Europe.”
The balance of the 2011 NFL schedule will be announced on April 19, at 7:00 p.m. ET. The NFL Network and NFL.com will be carrying the announcement live.
The London game is contingent on having the labor issues resolved by August 1st. If not, the game will revert to a home game for Tampa Bay, in Raymond James Stadium.