Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford will be visiting the UK as special guest for the NFL Super Bash in London.
Stafford is one of six quarterbacks expected to make the a trip to Wembley Stadium in 2014, when their teams visit the UK as part of the continued NFL International Series. Stafford will visit again when the Detroit Lions take on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8.
Stafford, like all NFL Quarterbacks, had hoped to be in New York, at the MetLife Stadium on the date, but his team were eliminated from contention in Week 16, so will instead serve as guest of honour for the UK fans attending the NFL’s official Superbowl party.
The Lions, who finished 7-9 and third in the NFC North, hope to rebound in 2014 under new head coach Jim Caldwell. Although a new head coach often means a new quarterback, Stafford was reportedly very actively involved in the coaching search, and had signed a 3 year, $53 million (approx. £32.2 million) contract extension in 2013, so seems set to return.
The Lions, like the Falcons whom they face, will hope to find winning form in 2014, with Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson expected to find a new spark with the offensively minded Caldwell calling the shots. Their Week 8 matchup in London is already tipped to be a great contest for fans, and indeed is perhaps the marquee matchup of the 2014 International Series.
The NFL has been working heavily to increase the profile of the NFL in the UK, increasing the London International Series games from one in 2012, to two in 2013 and three in 2014. Stafford’s visit to London for Super Bash is then next in a series of promotional moves hoped to build momentum for the sport.
Indeed, the common consensus is that a permanent team will be established in London within the next 5-6 years. Many consider that the Jacksonville Jaguars—who’s owner Shahid Khan purchased London based Fulham FC in 2013—are the most likely team to make the move, but some believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is aggressive enough about expanding into the UK market that he would even consider an expansion if he felt a team was not willing to relocate.