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NFL's Europe expansion? Maybe in 10 years. Maybe never.

In most countries, 'football' means kicking that round thing around. But it would be fun for the 'Patriots' to show Brits what a former colony can do.

By Staff writer / October 24, 2009

British fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots play a game of touch football at Richmond Park in London, Saturday. The two teams will play an NFL game at Wembley Park in London on Sunday.

Sang Tan/AP



Eighty thousand Brits cheering on the New England Patriots carries enough historical irony to warrant a look-see of the Pats-Bucs matchup at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.

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Is it another fun NFL public relations ploy -- or a glimpse of the league's transnational future?

Pats owner Robert Kraft, a self-described Anglophile, sees the potential for an NFL team in London or perhaps Berlin in the next 10 years (though getting a team to Los Angeles might be a more immediate priority.)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who first moved a game to London in 2007 and is planning more, says there’s “tremendous interest” in putting a team in London, though he wouldn’t give a time line.

Even former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice has said football one day will be a “game of international proportions.”

Of course, a quick run down of the English papers today shows very little about the football game, save a Page 6-style feature about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders. (Top London Times sports headline on Saturday: “Dalglish rallies Kop behind Benitez.” Oh, okay.)

To function, a London NFL team would have to fill a stadium at least for eight home games -- a market the NFL promises it will continue to test. For all the cultural insights painting American football as the violent, war-like sport of a world hegemon, it’s really not that far off from rugby, which, one could easily argue, is even more violent.

The real rub that many Europeans have with the NFL is that don’t like the fact that the Americans stole the word “football” for a sport that’s mostly played with the hands. (For the American view, please recall the "Family Guy" episode where Peter joins the Patriots to play at Wembley against the London Sillynannies, only to lead the stadium in an original song and dance number.)

Transnational sports league migrations are usually risky and fraught with defeat.