NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Giants will play the Miami Dolphins in Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, Oct. 28, in the first NFL regular-season game ever played in Europe. Goodell revealed the game’s date and location at his first state of the league news conference here, the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLI.
The Dolphins will be the home team. The game will begin at 6 p.m. London time so it can be televised in the traditional Sunday 1 p.m. time slot by FOX. Both the Giants and Dolphins will have their in-season bye the week following the game.
“On behalf of the Mara and Tisch families, we are very excited about the opportunity to take our product, our team and take the NFL across the pond and play in London,” said Giants treasurer Jonathan Tisch, who spoke at an NFL International news conference shortly after Goodell’s briefing. “We certainly live in a world dominated by brands, and there are very few brands that are stronger than the NFL. And we know from what we all do in business that brand extension is the name of the day. This is a perfect example of taking one of the most recognizable names and extending it to a new audience. And the new audience is important, because the world is getting much smaller but the global appeal of our game is getting much bigger. For the New York Giants to team up with the Miami Dolphins – two teams that have such a rich history, that represent in many ways the past of the NFL – and now to look at the future of the NFL, we are very, very excited.”
“We are looking forward to bringing our team to London, which has long been a center of attention and enthusiasm for the NFL overseas, dating back to the league’s first game there in 1983,” said John Mara, the Giants’ President and Chief Executive Officer. “Playing in London in late October means our fans there will see a midseason contest. It will signal the beginning of the second half of the season, when teams begin their playoff run.”
The Dolphins are equally enthused about playing in London.
“We are proud to be a part of this historic event,” Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said, “We’re enthusiastic about it. It’s important for the growth of the league. The owners voted on this several months ago and we endorsed the concept. Anything we can do to assist the league in moving forward with its growing program, the Dolphins are proud to do our part.”
This Giants-Dolphins game will be the second NFL regular season game to be played on foreign soil. Arizona defeated San Francisco, 31-14, in Mexico City on Oct. 2, 2005. The league has staged many preseason games in Europe and Japan. This will be the Giants’ second European game. On Aug. 13, 1994, they defeated the San Diego Chargers, 28-20, in a preseason game in Berlin.
Michael Strahan and Eli Manning, who attended the news conference with Tisch, both said they relish the opportunity to play in London.
“It’s going to be great – I’m looking forward to it,” Strahan said. “I grew up oversees in Germany and I’m so glad I had the experience of growing up in Europe. London’s going to be a great extension for the NFL. It’s a great chance for the players to understand that football is much bigger than just America. The opportunity for us to be the first two teams to play a regular season game outside of North America is equivalent to being trendsetters and setting a standard. I hope we can go there and represent the game very well, not only in the way we play, but in the way we conduct ourselves off the field.”
“I’m excited about it,” said Manning, who is in town to watch his brother, Peyton, play quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears. “It’s a tribute and an honor for both of these teams to go over there. I’m excited about the opportunity to play in the first NFL (regular season) game in Europe. I think it’s important for the NFL and we’re really excited about it.”
Both teams will face logistical challenges for the game. The Giants and Dolphins are both accustomed to flying cross-country to play games on the West Coast. But traveling East presents new problems. If the Giants leave at their normal mid-day time, they would arrive in the middle of the night in London. Tom Coughlin has not publicly said what his travel plans are.
“I hope it’s not a situation where we get there too late in the week and we don’t have a chance to adjust,” Strahan said. “Some players are going to be able to adjust easily and some will not. I think you have to take everybody into account. But that’s for the coach to figure out. I’m sure he’s going to come up with the schedule that’s beneficial to the team, because I know one thing and that’s that he wants to win. This is the first game outside of the country and we want to be remembered as winners in that first one. And I’m sure he’s going to do everything he can to make sure we’re in the best position to win the game.
“This is an opportunity for us to go over there and really showcase the NFL. I’m sure along with that there will be some responsibility for showcasing the game.”
“This is an honor for London – we’re absolutely delighted,” London Mayor Ken Livingstone said at the news conference. “We are expecting nearly 10,000 American fans to travel to London to watch the game as well as people from Europe. There will be many millions of TV viewers in the United States alone, so it will be a great opportunity to showcase London to new visitors and for people to see the unique way we enjoy our sport.”
“I think when you listen to what (Mayor Livingstone) has in mind, the buildup to the game will be enormous,” Tisch said. “And because it is now across international boundaries, it will be global. I know the Giants and Dolphins will do everything they can to get their fans – and for us it’s moving people from New York, but it’s also moving people from South Florida, because so many New Yorkers now live here – getting them across the water, and that excitement is going to build.
“Because the game is right in the middle of the season, it’s at a point where the playoffs are starting to loom on the horizon. Teams are getting excited about what’s going to happen. It’s natural for this game to really expand on a global basis and there will be a lot of excitement.”
A brand-new Wembley Stadium is scheduled to re-open this spring. Historic Wembley Stadium opened in 1924 and was the site of many famous sporting events, including the Olympic games, soccer matches and eight NFL preseason games from 1986-93. The stadium closed in 2000 and was demolished three years later. A modern stadium, which will seat approximately 90,000 for football, has been built on the same site.
“It’s exciting,” Manning said about playing there. “It’s exciting for the NFL expanding this game internationally and globally. I’m looking forward to going to London and playing a game there.
“From listening to people, American football has become popular over there. I think it will draw a crowd, plus the people traveling from New York and Miami going to the game. Hopefully, it will be upbeat and the people at the game will pick a side or cheer for both teams.”