NFL confident on Wembley
UK officials confident NFL game at Wembley will go ahead despite lockout
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 17/05/11 3:58pm
Wembley packed out for NFL game
NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood told skysports.com he remains hopeful the 2011 International Series game at Wembley will go ahead as planned despite the continuing league lockout.
Players are still unable to train with their teams as talks between them and owners fail to produce a new collective bargaining agreement, which many fans fear could delay or even wipe out the upcoming NFL season.
The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to battle it out in the fifth game being held at Wembley this October, and NFL UK officials are confident it will go ahead despite the lockout worry.
NFL UK have already opened up a registry of interest for the October 23 game at Wembley, with an 'early bird special' offering a special VIP prize for Wembley - which they are convinced will be staging an NFL game for the fifth year running.
"We have achieved good momentum in the growth of the sport - a recent example being the significant growth in Sky's viewing figures for the play-offs - and we are deep in planning for this year's game. We would never have announced the game if we were not confident that everything would be resolved in time for us to play the game in London."
Alistair Kirkwood Quotes of the week
Keen to build on the success of the last four years and an increasing interest in NFL in the UK, Kirkwood is confident they will be selling tickets as promised once a new CBA is found.
"We remain confident that a new CBA agreement will be reached in time for the new season," Kirkwood told skysports.com. "Talks continue to take place between the owners and the players and that is the quickest way for all the relevant issues to be resolved."
A deadline of August 1 has been set, with the game taking place at Tampa should an agreement not be found by then, but Kirkwood and UK officials believe that the two teams will be crossing the Atlantic as planned.
"Our cut-off date for confirming the Wembley game is August 1, which is well before any kind of deadline for the season to begin on time. There are still 10-11 weeks to go before we get to that stage," he added.
"We would never have announced the game if we were not confident that everything would be resolved in time for us to play the game in London.
NFL fans invaded the famous Wembley Way
"There is a strong desire within the NFL and the competing teams to play the game here and we believe the August 1 deadline gives us every chance of moving ahead with the game."
As within America, there are fears fans will be turned off by the continuing feuding between millionaire players and billionaire owners, but the Wembley game has proved that NFL in the UK is a growing sport.
"We have achieved good momentum in the growth of the sport - a recent example being the significant growth in Sky's viewing figures for the play-offs - and we are deep in planning for this year's game.
"I think our fans understand that the big picture of the CBA negotiations is a situation that is beyond our control."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been a staunch supporter of the Wembley games and hopes for the success to continue this year.
"Our past four games in London have demonstrated the tremendous passion for NFL football that exists in the UK," said Goodell. "We hope by staging another extraordinary game at Wembley that we can continue to grow our existing fan base and attract even more new fans."
NFL fans can register now for Wembley tickets by visiting www.nfluk.com/registration-of-interest/login/ to be first in line when tickets go on sale following the resolution of the current NFL labour negotiations.