Owners Give Approval For NFL Games Overseas

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 24 -- The NFL's team owners, meeting here Tuesday, approved a resolution that would allow the league to play up to two regular season games outside the United States annually.

The league staged its first regular season game in a foreign country last season when the Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to play a preseason game in China next year. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue's desire to expand the sport's international appeal has been passed on to successor Roger Goodell.

NFL officials said they plan to play one game abroad next season and up to two per year beginning in the 2008 season, continuing at least through the 2011 season. The league plans to begin taking bids from potential host sites in Canada, Mexico, England and Germany and announce a venue early next year.

Teams might be reluctant to surrender home games. But under the resolution the owners approved Tuesday, each club could designate one home game that could not be held in a foreign country; games between divisional opponents could not be played outside the country unless both teams consented; clubs playing an international game would have home games the week before and byes the week after; and home teams would be guaranteed fees equal to their average revenue in their other home games.

"There are competitive issues," Goodell said after overseeing his first owners' meeting since taking over as commissioner last month. "There are logistical issues. . . . But we are talking about a limited number of games that we think will have a tremendous impact. It's in response to the growing fan interest in our game overseas."

Said Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen: "If we lose a home game, we'll be compensated for it. . . . We're pretty comfortable with it. . . . From a league perspective, I think it's a good idea."

Goodell declined to comment on the specifics of the four-game suspension facing San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman for reportedly testing positive under the league's steroid-testing program. Merriman's appeal of the penalty is scheduled to be heard on Nov. 7, and he remains eligible to continue playing until then. His attorney, David Cornwell, said Monday that Merriman unwittingly ingested the banned substance nandrolone in a supplement he was taking.

"From our standpoint, we'll let the appeals process go and see where we come out," Goodell said.

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