The NFL’s attempt to turn the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into London’s favorite professional football franchise flopped just like the Bucs did in the second half of 2011.
Tampa’s 24-18 loss to the Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 23 marked the first of 10 consecutive losses to end the season, so perhaps the Bucs are just as happy to part ways with the British Isles as their hosts are to be rid of them.
On Friday the NFL announced the St. Louis Rams will become the next team to call London their second home. The Rams will play one regular-season game across the pond in each of the next three seasons, starting with an Oct. 28, 2012 matchup against the New England Patriots.
“We’ve seen first-hand the increased popularity of the NFL not only in London but throughout Europe,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement. “To play a role in that growth over the next three years will be incredible and is a testament to the many good things happening not only in the NFL but also in the St. Louis Rams organization.”
Last year the league agreed to play regular-season games in Britain for the next five seasons, but plans to play two games in the U.K. for the 2012 season were halted. The October Bears-Bucs matchup was the first contest not to sell out.
“This year is a very competitive year for sport in the UK, especially with the Olympics in London,” NFLUK managing director Alistair Kirkwood said. “Also, with the Rams having made an unprecedented commitment to playing in the UK for the next three years, we wanted to focus on them as our ‘home’ team without another game taking place.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is eager for his team’s return to London for the first time since they crushed the Bucs 35-7 in 2009.
“The United Kingdom is home to some of our most passionate Patriots fans, including the UKPatriots, who are among our most active fan clubs overall, not just overseas,” Kraft said.
And British NFL fans are likely equally excited to have them back, since, unlike the Rams, New England has won more than 15 games over the last five seasons and is one win away from returning to the Super Bowl for the fifth time in 11 years.
But the NFL tapped the Rams to be its ambassador abroad. So what do you say Londoners, are you ready to adopt Sam Bradford (assuming he’s still the starting QB), Steven Jackson (assuming he can stay healthy), new head coach Jeff Fisher and the 2-14 Rams as your new favorite NFL side?
More from Washington Post Sports:
Early Lead: Jeff Fisher accepts Rams coaching job
The League: Is Sam Bradford beginning to look like a bust?