Officials at the NFL (National Football League), one of the major professional sports leagues in the USA and Canada, are exploring the possibility of playing regular season games in both Spain and Brazil as early as next season, NFL executive vice president Peter O’Reilly has told ESPN.
O’Reilly, speaking in a podcast to be released on Tuesday, said the league sent officials to Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo earlier this month to investigate first-ever regular-season games in those cities.
‘That’s the diligence that we do constantly,’ O’Reilly told ESPN. ‘What’s the stadium like here? Could we play a game here? What does the support look like? We’re not there yet in terms of timing … We’re spending time in those markets, building relationships and looking at the stadia there.’
O’Reilly also said the NFL is studying the possibility of playing a regular-season contest in Australia, although he noted greater challenges with the logistical issues of such a ‘Down Under’ match.
The NFL has looked at Santiago Bernabéu stadium, the iconic home pitch of football powerhouse Real Madrid, and Wanda Metropolitano stadium, home venue for Atlético Madrid.
The Bernabéu stadium is nearly done with major renovations that include a pitch that retracts to make way for an artificial turf field that can be used for American football with a capacity of over 80,000. Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to host London games, has a similar system. The Wanda Metropolitano Stadium seats 68,000.
Barcelona’s Camp Nou is Europe’s largest football stadium but it is undergoing renovations.
‘There’s a lot of interest in the NFL,’ O’Reilly said. ‘You’ve got some classic soccer clubs around the world who are really interested in hosting the NFL and building a relationship with the NFL.
‘So the marriage of those two — there’s interests there for sure, and it’s just determining the timing and the approach.’
London has hosted games since 2007. Last year, Munich hosted the first NFL regular-season game in Germany. Two games will be played in Frankfurt later this season.
The NFL distributed international marketing rights to clubs in 2021 with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins assigned Spain. The Dolphins also have Brazilian rights.
‘Brazil and Spain are two strong markets and two important markets,’ O’Reilly said. ‘And importantly, there are also markets that clubs are interested in.’