It’s looking more and more like the Seahawks are going to finally play in London this year.
NFL UK will announce Thursday morning, Seattle time, the games that will be in London in 2018. They are likely to again be in October, at Wembley Stadium and at the new stadium of the English Premier League’s Tottenham Hotpur soccer club, in north London.
NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood told ESPN in October: “We have a desire to get the other six teams that haven’t been over.”
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Seattle is one of the six teams that has yet to play a regular-season game in London. Green Bay, Philadelphia, Carolina, Houston and Tennessee are the others. The Packers and Panthers are among the Seahawks’ opponents in 2018.
“It’s not the be-all and end-all, but you’d kind of like to get closer and closer to having all 32 teams over,” Kirkwood told ESPN. “That seems like a really nice narrative. ... That’s probably a really nice ambition.”
Except for the Seahawks. They’ve resisted London calling for years, not wanting to give up one of their eight home games in any season.
The NFL has rules requiring teams playing in temporary home stadiums and ones that have recently been awarded Super Bowls to play international games. That means expect the Los Angeles Chargers to be playing in one of the London games this year. The Chargers are on the Seahawks’ 2018 schedule, a Seattle home game.
The league has also often sent teams that have had trouble selling out home games to London to play there as the designated “home” team: Oakland (twice), Jacksonville (three time) and the Los Angeles Rams (three times). In the past designated home teams have received $1 million for moving a game to London.
The Seahawks don’t want or need any of that. They have 12,000 who have filled capacity with deposits into their “Blue Pride” membership notification list, the on-deck circle to buy future season tickets that have been sold out for most of the last decade. There are another 68,000 fans waiting to move up onto that “Blue Pride” notification list. Seattle has sold out 130 consecutive home games at CenturyLink Field, dating to the 2003 season.
So, no, they don’t want to give away a home game to London. That increases the possibility of the Seahawks playing in London as the road team--though not against the Packers and Eagles there. Those teams also have wait lists for season tickets, with an estimated wait time of 30 years each. So Green Bay and Philadelphia would also likely be road teams in any of their first London games.
NFL studies have shown only about 3 percent of fans attending the London games each year are Americans. About 22 percent are from London and 60 percent from the rest of Great Britain.
Perhaps the most likely of matchups if the Seahawks do indeed finally play in London this year: Seattle against Oakland.
ESPN.com reported last week the Raiders have agreed to give up a home game to play in England in 2018. The Seahawks are already scheduled to play a road game against the Raiders this year.
The NFL has typically had teams that play in London each season arrive around Thursday before the Sunday game, then go on their one bye week of the regular season immediately following the game in England.
So at least if the Seahawks have to play in London this year, their bye could come in a more optimal time of late October, close to the midway point of the 16-game regular season.