Vikings to host 2013 game in London

Vikings to host 2013 game in London

NFL owners announced Tuesday that the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet in the annual international regular-season game Sept. 29, 2013 in London, England. Vikings president Mark Wilf conducted a conference call to give some of the details.

The NFL announced Tuesday afternoon at its fall owners meetings in Chicago that the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers will play the annual NFL international game in London in 2013.

Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf conducted a conference call following the announcement with the local Twin Cities media saying that the team is looking forward to going to England as part of the NFL's international exposure into the European sports market. Wilf believes the game will provide a chance for not only the Vikings, but the state and its business community to get the international exposure such games provide.

"We're very excited," Wilf said. "This is a great opportunity for the Vikings franchise to represent and improve the brand of the Vikings and the unique opportunity to create great awareness and exposure for the team and for the state on an international stage. We embrace the opportunity. It's going to be a great experience. We know we have great fans – not just locally and in the United States, but internationally, so we're looking forward to the opportunity to play the Steelers."

As part of the agreement, the Vikings will be the home team in that game, which means they will only have seven games at the Metrodome next year. While Wilf admitted that the loss of a home game is part of the package and will take away a game from the local fan base, he countered that the exposure on the international stage will have benefit for the team, the state, the tourism industry and the Minnesota business community.

There had been speculation that the Vikings would be an ideal candidate for the London game in 2014 and/or 2015, when the team will be playing its home games at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota. However, he said no multi-year agreement has been approved and, as things currently stand, the commitment of the Vikings and the NFL to having the team play in London is just for the 2013 season.

"At this point, we expressed an interest in hosting a game and this is a one-year commitment and that's where we are at this point," Wilf said. "The No. 1 driver to this thing was, given the transition into the new stadium in (2016), we felt this was an opportunity to really grow our brand, grow awareness and also be an exciting opportunity for our fans worldwide and also to promote the business and tourism of the state on an international stage."

As a result of the excessive travel that is required to pull off such a game, which will be played in Week 4 (most likely Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013), both the Vikings and Steelers will have the bye week in Week 5 so as to maintain a competitive balance given the travel demands needed to travel overseas.

Given the unique situation in which the Vikings will be in for the 2014-15 seasons – being displaced from their home stadium while the new stadium is under construction – speculation has been that the Vikings would be a logical candidate for games in one or both of those seasons. Wilf said much of that potential discussion will depend on how the 2013 trip works out before committing to any future trips abroad.

"It's an unknown to us what the experience will be like," Wilf said. "We're going to go through the experience and evaluate afterward and see how the experience goes for us and our ball club."

While players have had mixed feelings about playing games in London – by their nature, players are very regimented in what they do during the week of preparation for the upcoming game – Wilf said that the entire organization is on board with the decision, including general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier.

"This has been discussed with our football folks – with our general manager and our head coach," Wilf said. "All these considerations have gone into this and we're excited for the opportunity and we're hopeful our players and our fans will embrace it and hopefully come out successful. This is a great opportunity to expand our brand, promote football and do great things for the businesses and the fans in our state."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here. Recommended Stories