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NFL exec plays down talk of expanded UK schedule

The NFL American football league has moved to play down suggestions from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan that the English capital could stage four regular-season games in 2017.

Khan was speaking after London’s Twickenham Stadium staged its first-ever NFL game on Sunday when the New York Giants defeated the Los Angeles Rams 17-10.

It marked the second of three games to be played in the capital this year. The Indianapolis Colts faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley at the beginning of the month, while the same stadium will host the Washington Redskins’ clash with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

The NFL will announce its 2017 London schedule later this year and Khan has called on commissioner Roger Goodell to award the city four games.

“I want London to be the business capital of the world, the cultural capital of the world and the sporting capital of the world,” Khan told the London Evening Standard newspaper. “I hope that the commissioner – no pressure – will have good news in the next 45 days. Just imagine if we went from three to four (games).”

However, Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice-president of international, has said that four London fixtures next year would be unlikely.

“(Khan) definitely asked the commissioner for four games,” Waller told the Sporting News website. “We’re not there yet and, to be honest, we’re not there from an inventory standpoint. We’re working on it.”

Waller pointed to logistical problems during Sunday’s game between the Giants and the Rams as one of the issues the NFL would seek to iron out before committing to further games.

“There were long lines at many of the stations and getting in (to the stadium),” Waller said. “Those are areas where we want to make sure if we added more games that we’ve got the right resources there.”

Waller also cited travel arrangement issues for fans and teams, as well as NFL scheduling problems, as further obstacles to overcome. Waller said the NFL’s relationship with Khan is “positive”, but insisted a four-game commitment would be a stretch at this stage.

“There’s a desire from the city of London to do more and there’s a desire for us to do more as well,” Waller added. “We’ve got to make sure we have the games obviously and the support locally to make them happen well because our fans deserve to have a great experience. We don’t want to lose sight of that.”

The NFL has an agreement in place with Tottenham Hotspur to stage a minimum of two games a year at the English Premier League football club’s new ground from 2018.