LONDON, England – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have become leaders in the NFL's effort to expand its presence in the United Kingdom and have expressed interest in playing here on a regular basis, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday.
Speaking in front of a group of approximately 100 fans at a forum at the Landmark Hotel, Goodell said the Bucs second appearance here in three years is an indication they are willing to come back consistently.
"The Buccaneers have taken a real interest in it,'' Goodell said when asked to gauge the desire of NFL teams to play a game in London on a regular basis. "Obviously the Glazer family has an interest over here with (the Manchester United soccer club, which they own in addition to the Bucs).
"I think they recognize that the growth of the league is important and they've been leaders in this area. I think they want to see the Bucs become a global franchise and I think that's a great thing for Tampa and a great thing for the NFL.''
Goodell did not say how deep the discussions he's had with the Glazers regarding a regular appearance in London have gone and noted the league's desire is to have multiple teams participate in its International Series games.
"I think we want try to get as many teams back here (as we can),'' Goodell said, "but if teams are interested in coming back consistently or more frequently, we'll continue to look at that.''
In response, a Bucs' spokesman said: "The league has asked us and many other teams if we are willing to consider playing a game in London. While our team has been very well received this week, we have made no decisions past this year's game."
Members of the Glazer family are in London this week but were not available for comment Saturday.
The Bucs made their second trip to London in three years this week, this time to play the Chicago Bears in the NFL's fifth International Series game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The NFL recently approved a resolution that extends the Internationals Series through the 2016 season and allows for the possibility of "multiple'' games being played in the U.K. during that span.
Goodell said the league continues to focus on London as the site of those games and added that fans in the U.K. could start to see the multiple games played hers "as early as next year.''
Goodell said the decision to play in the U.K. is totally up to the individual teams. He said the league cannot force any team to play internationally and that it has not had to in recent years.
"One of the most dramatic changes we've seen the last couple years is that teams are interested in coming over here,'' Goodell said. "We're not having to ask teams to do it. We're actually having to tell teams, sorry, there's too much interest.''
Asked later by the media if he was concerned about the potential backlash from fans that could result from a team like Tampa consistently leaving its market to play a home game in London each year, Goodell chose to focus on the positives of such a decision.
"Sure (we're concerned about the backlash),'' he said. "But we've had to deal with this in Buffalo, too, where they're playing a game in Toronto and in some ways it helped strengthen the team in Buffalo.
"It makes less tickets available, so it's less of a charge for season ticket holders in Buffalo or in Tampa, if that was the case, and that's a positive in some ways.
"So we continue to look at how we do it, but with balancing the interest of the clubs obviously and the fans.''