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NFL Announces Extension to United Kingdom Games

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Last year, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 24-16 in the fourth installment of the NFL's International Series in the United Kingdom.
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 24-16 in the fourth installment of the NFL's International Series in the United Kingdom.

NFL owners today approved a resolution to continue the recent tradition of playing regular season football games in the United Kingdom. The new resolution allows for multiple games per season in various sites in the United Kingdom between 2012 -2016. The determination of the number of games, venues, and teams has been left up to the league.

However, the resolution does ask teams to volunteer to play in the UK, forfeiting a home game for the trip. There is no limit on how many times a team can volunteer over the five year span.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, following the vote, "The response to NFL games being played in the UK continues to be exceptional. Because of the outstanding support of our British fans, we are confident that hosting additional games in the U.K. will be well received and support our goal of bringing football to more fans in the U.K. and beyond."

Since 2007, one game per season has been played in London's Wembley Stadium, with the Miami Dolphins playing in that initial contest, serving as the home team against the New York Giants. The series, according to the NFL, has directly led to a fan base of 11 million in the United Kingdom, with 2 million described as "avid" fans - a 32% growth in the last two years. British television ratings have also sky-rocketed, with Sunday games up 91% since 2006, and the Super Bowl's viewership increasing 74% in that same time frame.

"When the initial resolution was approved in 2006, the thinking at the time was that we would have two new teams every year," said NFL Vice President of International Chris Parsons. "As the series evolved, we felt as though having a team return to the U.K. on a regular basis would certainly increase the fan base for that particular team, which in turn would drive fan growth for the entire league. We think there is a tremendous benefit for a team to return to the U.K. on an annual basis."

The original resolution, approved in 2006, allowed for up to two games per regular season to be played in international stadiums; the NFL has played one in London, and the Buffalo Bills have played one in Toronto each season. However, with the new resolution, the league has focused on the United Kingdom, and allows freedom to schedule multiple games. The Bills' Toronto Series is scheduled to end in 2012 - the Dolphins were also involved in the first game of the series, this time in 2008.

This year, the Chicago Bears will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London, the final game under the initial resolution. The Buccaneers are listed as the home team for this match-up, with the game scheduled for October 23rd.

The first four games in the series are:

Date Visiting Team Score Home Team Score
October 28, 2007 New York Giants 13 Miami Dolphins 10
October 26, 2008 San Diego Chargers 32 New Orleans Saints 37
October 25, 2009 New England Patriots 35 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
October 31, 2010 Denver Broncos 16 San Francisco 49ers 24