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Before putting an NFL team in London, league wants to check logistics

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2014 file photo, spectators gather outside Wembley Stadium for the NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. The first sports stadium to break the $1 billion barrier was London’s Wembley Stadium. Now, Tokyo’s planned National Stadium for the 2020 Olympics will be the first to reach $2 billion, according to the latest cost estimate. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)


With the NFL still trying to figure out which or how many teams to put in Los Angeles, they’re also trying to work out the logistics of putting a team in England on a full-time basis.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, fanned the flames this week by saying they were “working hard” to bring a team there on a full-time basis, and had “high hopes” of landing a franchise. The league has already agreed to a deal to bring two games a year to Tottenham Hotspur’s under-construction stadium in North London, and that could be the full-time home of a team if Johnson gets his wish.

But NFL international division executive vice president Mark Waller said there is no time frame for putting a team there, and that the league would do so only “when we’re ready.”

“The key for us is that we’ve got to build real certainty that any team that was to make that undertaking could truly be competitive,” Waller said, via the Associated Press. “The last thing we would ever want to do is to put a franchise in a place where the logistics, the travel, the sourcing of players, the infrastructure for supporting teams through a season doesn’t exist. . . .

“We feel very comfortable from a fan perspective, from a sponsor and a stadium perspective now, that we have all of the right things in place. The one thing that we’ve got to do more work on is how would it work from a team operational standpoint?”

This season will provide a test-run of sorts, as there will be games on back-to-back weekends in London for the first time, with the Oct. 25 Bills-Jaguars game followed by the Chiefs-Lions clash on Nov. 1 in Wembley Stadium.

“We need to make sure that the concept, actually when you bring it into practice, the teams can still be competitive,” Waller said. “There’s no real way to prove that out other than testing it. . . . Now we’ve got to be able to prove that and ensure to owners that we feel a team there could be competitive.”

Another alternative the league is considering is to play eight games overseas, without anchoring those games to one city. The league is openly flirting with Mexico and Germany in particular, as they constantly look for ways to wring money out of fans even if it’s not in American dollars.

But while the mayor of London might be excited, any talk of a team there full-time seems several years away, considering the NFL has taken 21 years to figure out how to get its product back in the second-largest American city.