The Bucs are scheduled to “host’’ the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. The team previously played in London in 2009. When announcing the passage of a resolution to continue games in London through 2016, league officials said teams will be allowed to volunteer for one game a year in London and also implied they’d like a team to make repeat visits to help create a fan base in the United Kingdom.
The Bucs will become the first team to play in London twice in the regular season with Sunday’s game and it sounds like there’s a good chance they’ll be back.
“I think they recognize that the growth of the league is important and they’ve been leaders in this area,’’ Goodell said. “I think they want to see the Bucs become a global franchise and I think that’s a great thing for Tampa and a great thing for the NFL.’’
The league has talked about eventually basing a team in London on a permanent basis. Tampa Bay’s willingness to play in London and the fact the team’s owners (the Glazer family) also own the Manchester United soccer team have led to speculation that the Bucs could be a candidate for relocation.
But general manager Mark Dominik said earlier this week the Bucs aren’t looking to leave Tampa Bay. I know there are conspiracy theories out there and many point to the team’s struggles to sell out games in Tampa.
But I don’t think Dominik was throwing out a smoke screen. Raymond James Stadium is one of the best facilities in the league and the NFL likes having Tampa Bay as a Super Bowl venue. When there was talk of the Bucs leaving in the mid-1990s, the league did its best to make sure that didn’t happen. The Glazers have a lot invested in Tampa Bay. They built One Buccaneer Place with their own money.
Team officials have pointed to the economy for the attendance issues. They’ve also said that playing one game in London helps make season tickets more affordable in the short term. Team officials also have said they believe attendance will pick up if the economy improves.