International expansion

19 Jul

In recent years, the NFL has expanded into new markets and ventures outside of the United States, beginning with a regular series of exhibition games known as the American Bowl, then with a European based developmental league culminating in the now defunct NFL Europa, and starting in 2005 the league began hosting regular season games outside the United States, the first in Mexico City, Mexico, and then from 2007 hosting games London, England, and from 2008 in Toronto, Canada.

The American Bowl games began in 1986 and continued until 2005 at various sites in countries around the world. Then in 1991, the league formed the World League of American Football, later known as NFL Europe and still later as NFL Europa, a developmental league that had teams in Britain, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. The NFL shut down the program in June 2007.

The league played a regular-season NFL game in Mexico City in 2005, the first-ever NFL regular season game held outside the United States, and marketed across the league as the Fútbol Americano game. On October 28, 2007, a regular season game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants was held outside of North America for the first time in Wembley Stadium, the 90,000-seat national stadium, in London. It was a financial success with nearly 40,000 tickets sold within ninety minutes of the start of sales,and a game-day attendance of over 80,000. In 2008, the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers played at Wembley, and in October 2009, the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers met. Starting from the 2008-09 season, building on league links with Toronto, the Buffalo Bills play an annual home game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, marketed by the team as the Bills Toronto Series.

After 100 years of American football influence in Mexican territory, in 1998 NFL opened a representation office in Mexico, called NFL México, as the NFL identified Mexico as a key market outside the United States due to proximity and tradition. The Mexican office handles sponsorship, licencing, detail dealers, sport culture, broadcasting, public relationships and community service.

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