England could stage games away from Wembley

With the news that the NFL are inching closer towards a possible London franchise, that could mean England start playing home games away from Wembley stadium once again.

The FA are looking into the possibility of staging some England internationals away from Wembley from 2018, with the possibility of an NFL franchise moving into the national stadium.

Since the new Wembley opened in 2007 the national football team have played all their home internationals at the illustrious stadium and the FA have an agreement in place to continue this trend until the end of 2017, but following this the England team will be free to play at other venues around the country, although it is expected the majority of home games will remain at the home of English football.

During the early part of the century whilst the new stadium was being constructed England toured the country rather successfully playing their home games at the likes of St James' Park, St Mary's and the Stadium of Light, and with crowds for certain internationals being on the wane of late, there may be an opportunity for these areas to stage national team games once more.

In the Three Lions last home match, the friendly against Norway only 40,181 fans attended, which was over 8,000 lower than the previous lowest at the stadium against Sweden in 2011.

Crowds have been consistently below the 70,000 mark in recent times with only the exceptions of the Germany friendly last year, and the Peru match just prior to this summer's World Cup pushing above this mark.

Club England chief executive Adrian Bevington had recently suggested that it would be up to nine years before England could play away from Wembley, siting recouping the costs to build the new stadium as the major priority.

He said: "Wembley has to be paid for. The reality is that the FA has to put [an] events calendar on to do this. When [we are] debt free in 8/9 years, [we will have] more choice."

However the realistic possibility has now emerged that an NFL franchise could set up base at Wembley meaning the 2018 date for England to tour the country would be a possibility.

Wembley will host three NFL matches during 2014 with the first already having taken place. Miami Dolphins' 38-14 win over the Oakland Raiders last month attracted 83,436 with the two other impending fixtures also sell outs in a sport that is ever growing in Britain.

Last year Wembley managing director Roger Maslin was confident the stadium could host a full programme of eight NFL fixtures.

"Football is our priority. But yes, I'm absolutely confident that if the NFL wanted to have franchise here then we could absolutely do it," he said.

NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood was slightly more reserved in his perceptions of the stadium's ability to host a full campaign in the near future, believing there to be numerous issues still be addressed such as would the team be a newly set up London franchise or would a current franchise relocate from across the Atlantic.

He said: "It's not just about the logistics of where a team might come from or whether it would be a new team, it's also scheduling, air travel, a tonne of other logistics. If we were to finish it off, it would be a big project realised."

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