The NFL has confirmed one of its worst-kept secrets: The Bucs will indeed meet the Bears at London's Wembley Stadium, with the game now officially set for Oct. 23.
The rumor surfaced last week, but with the NFL set to release its leaguewide schedule on Tuesday, the league firmed up the details of what will be its fifth consecutive season with a regular-season game played in London.
Also confirmed is the fact that the game will be one of the Bucs' eight regular-season home games, which was also the case when the Bucs played in the U.K. in 2009, losing to the Patriots.
The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs and English soccer club Manchester United, continue to embrace the opportunity to take their brand abroad.
"We are honored to be selected to participate in the NFL International Series for a second time," said Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer. "We are looking forward to promoting Tampa Bay's emerging young team on the world stage.
"We have the longest running fan club of any NFL team in the UK and look forward to seeing so many familiar faces from the Bucs UK Fan club at the game."
Another motivating factor for the Bucs: The fact they have had major difficulties filling Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, with none of the team's eight home games in 2010 reaching sellout status.
Teams that lose home games to international games are compensated by the league for the lost revenue.
In announcing today's news, the NFL also offered a possible hint of its expectations on the labor front. The league said the contest in London will be played in Tampa if there is no resolution of the current lockout by Aug. 1. That provides something of a target date for the league as it attempts to resolve its monthlong work stoppage.
As a consequence of moving the Bears game to London, the team will have to address ticket holders who already have paid for 10 home games (two preseason plus eight regular season). The team said any ticket holders who have paid in full will receive a refund for the lost game. Those refunds will be made via check for fans who paid their accounts via cash or check. Those who paid by credit card will have charges credited to the card.
Accounts using monthly payment plans will have ensuing payments adjusted to reflect the price of nine games rather than 10, the Bucs said.