Could the Rams' Wembley Deal Lead to a London NFL Franchise?

Luke TaylorCorrespondent IIJanuary 20, 2012

EARTH CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke addresses the media during a press conference at the Russell Training Center on January 17, 2012 in Earth City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

St Louis Rams announced today that for the next three seasons they will be participating in the NFL’s International Series by playing one “home” game at London’s Wembley Stadium from 2012 to 2014.

However, the news had only just been announced when speculation began to suggest that the NFL viewed London as a possible destination for the Rams, should they leave St Louis.

With a smaller fan base than most teams, and the worst record of any club in the NFL over the last decade, the Rams have constantly been linked with a move away from St Louis; most notably to Los Angeles. Now, however, there is potentially a new candidate looking to take the Rams from its Missouri home: London.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already spoken openly in the past about the potential of an NFL franchise opening in England, and this announcement certainly adds a little more weight to the possibility.

The deal has led to speculation that it is an experiment to see if fans will get behind a team of their own in London, and The Rams’ lease at the Edward Jones Dome in St Louis expires in 2014.

With the Rams playing in London for three straight years, it remains to be seen whether they can sustain and expand on the level of support they are likely to receive in England. If they begin to gather support, then a case could be made to make them the first ever NFL Franchise outside of America in 2015.

If support grows for the Rams in England, and the NFL manage to successfully deal with the logistical issues of having an NFL team across the pond, then many see this as the perfect opportunity to do just that.

To add even more fuel to the fire, Rams owner Stan Kroenke has links to London too.

He is a major shareholder in Arsenal Football Club, who play their home games in London.

This opens up the possibility that the Rams could play their home games at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, if officials at Wembley refused to allow an NFL team to play regularly at their ground, with the National soccer team already having complained of damage to the pitch caused by hosting the NFL games.

Kroenke’s London links, and the three-year deal signed by the Rams, suggest that the NFL may well be using St. Louis to see if a London franchise would have enough support to get off the ground.

If that is the case, the Rams could be the team on the move.

There is the potential for a move to London but, for now, it is merely speculation.

Kroenke could alternatively be trying to add dollars to his deal to stay in St Louis, or move to Los Angeles, by bringing London into the mix.

There are also a lot of questions about how an NFL franchise in London could exist, with the NFL needing a solution to the issues of travel, jet-lag, and scheduling.

Expect more to come on this story, and if the Rams don’t agree a deal to stay in St Louis, then expect a lot of talk about the NFL’s first overseas franchise in London to follow.