The NFL will reduce its presence in London by one game in 2018, from four to three, the league announced Thursday morning. For the first time, however, the games will be played in consecutive weeks, as the league continues to build out its operational structure in the United Kingdom.
The schedule also features three teams that haven’t yet played in the International Series: The Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans. By the end of the 2018 season, the only teams not to have played a game in London will be the Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers.
“This is another important year as we develop our plans for London and the U.K.,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of events and international. “It’s a great learning for us. If we were ever to put a franchise in the UK we would need to know we can do three consecutive weekends. Both from the fans buying tickets and attending games, and from a logistics and organizational standpoint.”
The series will begin in Week 6 with a Seahawks-Oakland Raiders game at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, built with cooperation and input by the NFL. In the following two weeks, the Eagles will play the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Titans will play the Los Angeles Chargers, both at Wembley Stadium. The order of those games will be announced closer to the season.
The Raiders, Jaguars and Chargers agreed to give up a home game to play in London. The Raiders and Chargers are awaiting construction of new stadiums, and the Jaguars have a long-term agreement to play in London to combat low local revenues in Jacksonville.
The NFL had planned to stage two games in the 2018 season at Tottenham, which was runner-up in the Premier League last season. But Tottenham, which is using Wembley as its own temporary home this season, doesn’t want the burden of two NFL fixtures when it is still settling into its new, unnamed stadium.
“We have created something very unique,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said at the announcement of fixtures. “We still have another six or seven months of really hard work of construction.”
Tottenham has signed a 10-year contract for games with the NFL.
“We very much hope there will be a franchise in London and we would very much like this stadium to be used for that club,” Levy said. “We haven’t assumed there is going to be a franchise. It’s very much our desire.”
The new stadium was designed with NFL-sized changing rooms and to ensure the grass soccer pitch can be retracted and kept under lights below the stands when the artificial surface is required for NFL.
The NFL has contributed $13.5 million toward the tailoring of the stadium. Tottenham Hotspur and the league will split gate receipts and food, drink and merchandise sales from NFL games there.
The NFL will also stage a game in Mexico City as part of an agreement that locks the league into annual games there through 2021.