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NFL reduces 2018 London schedule as Tottenham secures single game

The NFL American football league has scheduled three regular-season games for London in 2018, with the new home of English Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur set to host one game, rather than the two originally specified, in its first year of operation.

The announcement also means that the NFL International Series in London is reduced from its current four-game model that was put in place for 2017, with Twickenham losing its hosting rights.

The 2018 London schedule will consist of three games held on consecutive weekends for the first time, with all designated road teams making their first trip to the English capital. The series will kick-off on October 14 at Spurs’ new stadium with the Oakland Raiders hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

The following two weeks, October 21 and 28, two additional teams will make their London debuts at Wembley Stadium as visiting teams. The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in a matchup of 2017 playoff teams, while the Tennessee Titans will face the Los Angeles Chargers. The order of the games, along with all kickoff times, will be confirmed at a later date.

The NFL and Tottenham Hotspur announced in July 2015 that they had reached agreement for a minimum of two games per year to be played during a 10-year partnership. The 61,000-seat stadium, due to open this summer, will feature a retractable grass field with an artificial surface underneath that will be used for NFL games. It will also have customised features for NFL games such as locker rooms, medical and media facilities and a dedicated entrance.

During the announcement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the decision to stage only one game at the venue in 2018 was made with a view to allow the stadium to bed in for its opening campaign, adding that the intention is to move up to the contracted two games per year from 2019. Khan also repeated his ambition for London to land an NFL franchise, along with staging a future edition of the Super Bowl in the capital.

Khan said: “I’m delighted Tottenham Hotspur’s fantastic new stadium is joining the line-up of world-class sports arenas in our great city. Spurs’ new ground will stage one game in its first year of opening and in 2019 we look forward to going back to staging at least four NFL games in London. Once again, London has shown why it is the sporting capital of the world and open to the very best sports events.”

By the end of the 2018 season, the NFL will have played 24 regular-season games in London, with 29 of 32 teams having participated. NFL executive vice-president of international and events, Mark Waller, said: “By playing games on three consecutive weeks we will learn a lot, both from the fans buying tickets and attending games, and from a logistics and organisational standpoint.

“We are very excited about playing our first game at Tottenham’s magnificent new stadium and will follow our usual pattern of playing one game in our first season at a new venue, as we did at Wembley and Twickenham in previous years. 

“This enables us to achieve important learnings relating to the fans’ preferences, ticketing, team logistics and local transportation and infrastructure in order to create the best possible experience and environment. We will play an additional game at Tottenham in a future season, over and above the planned two per year, to make up for this.”

Twickenham, the home of the English national rugby union team, hosted a regular season game between the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings on October 29 in what was the venue’s third and final match under an initial deal struck with the league in November 2015.

The first NFL game at the venue in 2016 attracted 74,121 fans, while the two games this year – the first of which saw the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals 33-0 on October 22 – had a combined attendance of 147,973.

The deal signed in 2015 allowed the NFL to play a minimum of three regular-season games at Twickenham over a three-year period. The agreement also gave the NFL the opportunity to stage two additional games over the same period.