- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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LONDON --- At the NFL's FanFest rally on Saturday in Trafalgar Square, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft shared his belief that London is ready to have its own professional football team.
"You're already hosting the premier league, and we believe we're the premier sport in the world," Kraft told thousands in attendance. "I think London has shown, with the way they've handled the Olympics and every other major sporting event, that it's time for you to have your own NFL franchise, based in London."
Kraft was speaking in advance of Sunday's International Series game between the Patriots and St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium (1 p.m. ET). He was joined on stage by coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, punter Zoltan Mesko and receivers Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker.
Later, in a meeting with reporters, Kraft expounded upon his thoughts and how the Jacksonville Jaguars will play "home" games in London in each of the next four seasons (2013-2016).
"As these things develop and there's a permanent home team now, I'm sure they'll develop a great following," Kraft said, before broadening his thoughts to the league-wide level.
"Whatever we can do to cultivate playing football throughout the world ... We've been discussing that the NFL, I don't know if we've done as good a job as we could educating the rest of the world what a great game it is."
Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams marks the sixth regular-season NFL game played in London. The league has scheduled two regular-season games to be played in London in 2013 -- the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Jaguars, and the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Minnesota Vikings (a "home" game for Vikings).
In his meeting with reporters, Kraft was asked if he feels playing in London this year puts the Patriots at a competitive disadvantage.
"I sort of feel like this is a home game for us when we're playing the Rams," he said, pointing out that it's technically a Rams home game even though they had to travel a longer distance.
"It's part of the challenge of organizing yourself. You get different time zones, you get players sick, you get players injured," he said. "It's just part of the operating experience. We only look at the positive side and we think the way we've set things up, hopefully we have a competitive advantage week in, week out, home or away.
"I think every football coach in America that coaches in the NFL would prefer to have every one of their games at 1 o'clock Sunday at home. But that's not the way the world works."
Earlier at Saturday's FanFest, Rams coach Jeff Fisher and several players, including quarterback Sam Bradford, spoke to the crowd.
But it was Gronkowski, the Patriots' third-year tight end, who stole the show by taking a microphone and spiking it onto the stage to replicate one of his trademark touchdown spikes.
"Gronk showed his true colors," Kraft said. "Let's hope he does that during the game tomorrow."
At the NFL's FanFest rally on Saturday in Trafalgar Square, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft shared his belief that London is ready to have its own professional football team.