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Goodell sees “tremendous demand” for the NFL in Europe

Pittsburgh Steelers Media Access

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27: Flags advertising the NFL in London are seen on Regent Street prior to a Pittsburgh Steelers press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 27, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

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The NFL says it has a large and growing fan base in Europe, and could have a team there within five years.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on NFL Network that the league has had such success with its games in London that there’s no reason a franchise couldn’t call London home soon. Goodell did not say whether it would be an expansion franchise or an existing franchise moving across the pond, but he said he sees it happening soon.

“We couldn’t be happier with what we’re seeing,” Goodell said. “We actually couldn’t be more surprised by the tremendous demand for NFL football in London, in the UK in general, and frankly in Europe. So it’s not something that I think is 15 or 20 years away. It could be five or 10 years away.”

The NFL began playing preseason games overseas in 1986, but Goodell says it was the switch to regular season games in London in 2007 that laid the groundwork for having a team in London some day.

“The fans want to see more NFL football, and they want to see the real thing,” Goodell said. “They don’t want to see the ‘friendlies’ as they call them over there, which is preseason games. So we changed our strategy eight years ago and said, ‘Let’s play regular season games.’ And our clubs have responded very favorably. They’ve enjoyed the experience. So we’re anxious to do more of it. I see us continuing to play more games there, to focus on our television coverage there and expanding that, our other business efforts including licensing and sponsorship.”

It sounds like the NFL will have a team in London just as soon as the league can be convinced that team will be profitable. And Goodell thinks that’s in as soon as five years.