London may be calling, and it could be using a viking horn to signal the next NFL team to debut in London. The Minnesota Vikings are the “top choice” to replace the St. Louis Rams in the NFL’s International Series in 2013 and 2014, the Pioneer Press in St. Paul says.
“We’ve expressed an interest, and there’s a process the league is following,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs and stadium development before Minnesota’s preseason game against Buffalo on Friday. “We’ll see how it shakes out.”
The move would make perfect sense for both the NFL and the Vikings, as the league tries to expand it’s brand on the global scale. So far the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all traveled across the pond to play football, and the results have been great.
There were rumblings last year that the NFL wants to put a franchise in London, making it the first time an NFL franchise will be located out side the United States. But those close to the situation say that a team in London is still a plan that’s at least 10 to 15 years down the road.
As for the immediate future, the NFL is planning on keeping the International Series going strong and they’re turning to the Vikings to help with the exapansion.
If the Vikings do indeed play in London in 2012 and 2014, this would mean two things. One would be that they’d become just the third team to play in London twice. The Buccaneers played their second game at Wembley Stadium last year and the Patriots are set to make a second appearance this year against the St. Louis Rams.
It would also mean that the Vikings new stadium wouldn’t open until the 2015 season, as there is no way the NFL would allow a team with a brand new stadium to travel away from it when it doesn’t have to. Plans to open the new Vikings stadium are currently on track for a 2015 debut anyways, as the Vikings are expected to play in the metrodome for at least one more season.
The plans to send the Vikings to London also make sense from an owner’s point of view. The Wilf brothers are going to lose a considerable amount of money when Minnesota plays at TCF Bank Stadium, the Golden Gopher’s home field, and moving the game to London would not only be a way to boost global appeal, but it’s not like they’d be taking that big of a hit in terms of ticket sales at home.
TCF Bank Stadium holds just over 50,000 people at full capacity, which is over 10,000 people less then Mall of America Field holds. The highest attendance total at Wembley Stadium for an NFL game was just over 84,000 so there’s real incentive in moving games.
No word has come down to make this official, but it looks like the Minnesota Vikings will be the next team to debut in London after this season. The NFL is set to release the teams playing in London, sometime this season.