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Could London be a second home for Tampa Bay Buccaneers? NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thinks so, at least for one game a year

LONDON

Let's agree the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not moving permanently to the U.K., okay?

But they are interested in playing one regular-season home game in London every year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday.

Speaking at a fan forum in London, Goodell said the league's owners have agreed to play two regular-season games in London starting as early as next year. The Bucs, who today play their second game at Wembley Stadium in three years, are among the teams that want to make it an annual event, Goodell said.

"They've shown an interest just by being here two out of three years," Goodell said. "I think we want to try to get as many teams back here. But if teams are interested in coming back consistently or more frequently, we're going to continue to look at that.

"We've talked to several teams about it, and Tampa is one of them."

Goodell praised the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs and England's Manchester United soccer team, for taking a lead role in promoting the game overseas.

"I think they want to see the Bucs become a global franchise," Goodell said. "And I think that's a great thing for Tampa. I think it's a great thing for the NFL."

The Bucs released a statement saying no decision has been made about returning to London.

"The league has asked us and many other teams if we are willing to consider playing a game in London," the statement read. "While our team has been very well-received this week, we have made no decisions past this year's game."

The Bucs have a clause in their lease that allows them to move one home game a year out of Raymond James Stadium. They have seen 16 of their past 17 games there blacked out on local television because they failed to sell out 72 hours before kickoff. Goodell said he is sensitive to the reaction of Bucs fans possibly losing a home game each year. But he said it would reduce the price of season tickets and increase demand.

Goodell said the league's owners decided within the past two weeks to play two games at Wembley Stadium and the only question to answer is if to play them in consecutive weeks or space them apart.

"We want to see the more popular teams come over," Goodell said. "Should we focus on just a couple of teams as consistently coming back here to build a fan base around those teams? The Bucs are coming back now for a second time in a five-year period of time. And the idea is: Will that allow them to build a fan base quicker?"

Goodell said having several teams become regulars in the British capital would be "very powerful and lead us to what we ultimately would like to do: have a franchise here in London."

Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said Friday that he has had no discussions with the Glazers about playing a game every year in London, but he doesn't seem opposed to it.

He noted the trip to London is only 90 minutes longer than one to the West Coast. He believes the team's arrival on Monday permitted players to adjust to the time difference and prepare for the game. He also was encouraged by the team-building aspect and training camp atmosphere the trip provides.

While they are the youngest team in the NFL, it might serve the Bucs well to experience spending a week together preparing for a big game. But players thrive on routine, and the excessive travel and dramatic time change could take a toll somewhere down the line.

The question is: If the Falcons, Saints and Panthers don't travel, is it a competitive disadvantage?

"I think it's more about the experience," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "The NFL is trying to get the experience out here and make our game global. Anything that can support making our game global, it's more important to do that. It's more about the shield than anything else.

"Whichever teams come over here, I think it's going to be a very special experience."

Could London be a second home for Tampa Bay Buccaneers? NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thinks so, at least for one game a year 10/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 7:56pm]
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