by Alex Dimond
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the New England Patriots at Wembley next year, as the NFL returns to the UK for the third time.
Following in the footsteps of this year’s epic 37-32 encounter between the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell believes the third instalment of the International Series will be the biggest ever, and hopes both sides will combine to deliver another feast of American football action.
“Over the past two years, we have seen first-hand the excitement that exists for our sport in the UK,” Goodell said. “The games have helped us to deepen our connection with our UK fans as well as create new ones. We are looking forward to another outstanding game in 2009.”
For British fans, the game is a mouthwatering prospect. Both sides are among the best in the NFL, and both boast impressive records this season (the Patriots sit at 7 wins and 5 losses, the Bucs at 9-3). And, with the Patriots among the most popular sides in the UK, the atmosphere promises to be electric.
“We are proud to be selected by the NFL to be featured in next year’s international game,” said New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. “We have had a lot of memorable moments in recent years. I am sure our trip to the United Kingdom next year will prove to be an unforgettable experience for our players and coaches, as well as the many fans that will travel to the game.
“I think it is fitting that New England’s first game to be played outside of North America will be in England. I know that the UK is home to some of our most passionate Patriots fans and we look forward to the experience.”
The Patriots will bring gridiron pedigree to North London, having won the Superbowl in 2002, 2004, and 2005. They also boast arguably the premier quarterback in the game today, Tom Brady, and one of the game’s best wide receivers, Randy Moss. Both men hold NFL all-time records.
The Buccaneers are one of the less fashionable sides in the NFL, yet have still won the Superbowl as recently as 2003. While the team may have few stars, they have proven themselves to be genuine Playoff contenders on a regular basis in recent years.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization is extremely excited and honored to be chosen to participate in the NFL International Series,” said Buccaneers executive vice president Joel Glazer. “We look forward to being part of the NFL’s global outreach and playing our great game in front of Buccaneers fans overseas.”
In October, 83, 226 fans turned out to see Drew Brees lead New Orleans past the resolute Chargers. With arguably superior sides turning out in 2009, fans will surely scramble to fill out Wembley once again.