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NFL London franchise bid wins UK government backing

Chancellor George Osborne has pledged UK government support to the National Football League (NFL) potentially basing an American football franchise in London.

Detroit Lions face Atlanta Falcons at Wembley on Sunday in the second of three 2014 regular season NFL matches to take place at England’s national stadium, where the league has staged games before near-capacity crowds since 2007.

The continued popularity of NFL matches in London led league commissioner Roger Goodall to suggest in July that the city could have its own team before the end of the decade. According to the Evening Standard, Osborne recently had discussions with the NFL regarding possible London expansion.

"One of London's massive strengths is its sporting prowess, its great football (soccer) teams," he told the newspaper. “This is primarily a decision for the owners of the clubs and the NFL organisation but I've said to the NFL that anything the government can do to make this happen we will do, because I think it would be a huge boost to London.

"There are 32 teams in America, and one of them could be a London team. That's a serious prospect. It's not going to happen overnight but over the next few years. I just think it will cement London as a global sporting capital as well as a global financial and business and cultural capital."

The NFL welcomed Osborne’s stance and a spokesperson for the league told the Reuters news agency: "We warmly welcome the Chancellor's strong support for the possibility of an NFL team in London and look forward to welcoming him to a game at Wembley over the next few weeks. Our key priority is to continue to build our fan base in the UK so that there is strong demand for any future plans in London.

"We will do this by ensuring that we are able to offer top class action on the field and brilliant events – which include the fan rally at Trafalgar Square on Saturday – off it. We are looking forward to two exciting upcoming games in London and are committed to further strengthening the links between the NFL and our UK fans.”

The first game in the NFL 2014 International Series was Miami Dolphins’ 38-14 win over Oakland Raiders last month and Dallas Cowboys take on Jacksonville Jaguars – which has committed to annual London games on a long-term basis – on November 9.