As part of the National Football League's International Series, the Atlanta Falcons have been selected as one of three teams to host a regular season home game in London's Wembley Stadium during the 2014 season.
The two other NFL clubs that will host games in the UK in 2014 are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Dates and opponents for all three games will be announced by the NFL later this season.
Atlanta's trip to the UK will mark the first time in the club's 47-year history that it has played in London. The Falcons played a pre-season game in Tokyo, Japan in 2000 and 2005, defeating the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, at the Tokyo Dome.
Announced during the NFL's owners meeting today in Washington, D.C., the Falcons will be part of the NFL's expansion from two regular season games in 2013 to three regular season games in 2014.
"Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Both of this year's games in London sold out quickly. The fan enthusiasm for our sport continues to grow. By playing two games in the UK this year, we are creating more fans. We hope that with three games in London next year we will attract even more people to our game."
"We are excited and honored to serve as ambassadors for our city, our state, and the National Football League," said Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank. "Playing in London will provide tremendous exposure to our team, as well as provide the opportunity to showcase the great international city of Atlanta. We are looking forward to representing the NFL on a global stage by playing in historic Wembley Stadium in what we are sure will be an entertaining game for NFL fans everywhere."
Speaking on behalf of the Falcons coaches and players, Head Coach Mike Smith said, "Our coaches and players are excited about this opportunity. We are so fortunate to coach, play and be a part of the greatest game in America. Playing a regular season game outside of the United States is an opportunity to share the NFL game day experience with fans in the UK, and to showcase NFL football globally."
City of Atlanta and State of Georgia government and civic leaders reacted favorably to today's announcement. Their comments, along with Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan's, are below.
"An Atlanta Falcons game in London offers a unique opportunity to further the Georgia brand in the United Kingdom. These types of events align with economic development strategies that benefit the entire state through increased exposure and awareness of our many selling points. We value our partnership with the Falcons and the NFL, and we support the GWCCA's efforts to work toward this goal."
--Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
"We are both excited and honored that our own Atlanta Falcons have been selected to compete before an international audience in London. This unique opportunity will allow our city to showcase many of its exceptional attributes such as our healthy business climate, global connectivity and inspiring citizens."
--Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
"World-class sports are a sign of a world class city. The Falcons' playing in London will give us a unique opportunity to tell business leaders around the globe about Atlanta and the entire state of Georgia. We look forward to working with Mr. Blank and the Falcons to use the trip to tell our story: We are a globally competitive, thriving location for business."
--Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark
"The metro Atlanta region has many great assets, the Atlanta Falcons among them. We are proud the team has been selected to host a game in London next year. This is an attractive opportunity, as well, to showcase metro Atlanta as a great place to live, work, and play. We look forward to taking advantage of this spotlight to further economic development in our region."
--Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams
"The Falcons' playing in London creates significant international exposure for the city of Atlanta at a time when we are looking to increase overseas visitation to our city."
--Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO William Pate
"Playing in London is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we will get to experience as a team next year. I think it will be terrific. It's an honor to be selected by the NFL to represent the league in the NFL International Series."
--Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan