The Cincinnati Bengals can add another accomplishment to the growing list of feats happening for the organization. The Bengals have been chosen to play in the 2016 International Series that takes place in London. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the game will take place on October 30 against the Washington Redskins. The kickoff time has yet to be determined.
The Bengals give up a home game in the deal and will exercise their right to take a bye week immediately after. So, the 2016 season ticket package will only include seven regular-season games and two preseason games instead of the standard eight and two.
The success and popularity of the NFL in London have been overwhelming. Fans are following their home teams, and UK fans are filling Wembley Stadium to capacity. Commissioner Rodger Goodell addressed the fans per a statement from NFL UK.
“The passion our UK fans have shown for the NFL is overwhelming,” Goodell affirmed. “We are very appreciative of the strong and growing fan support, not only for the games, but for all of the related NFL events we host in the UK throughout the year. We look forward to welcoming new fans to their first NFL game in 2016 and welcoming back thousands of others that are helping our sport grow to new levels of popularity in London and beyond.”
The Bengals will play the first game in franchise history beyond the borders of the United States when they host Washington. The AFC North leaders have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past four seasons.
Washington may play in consecutive weeks in London in 2016 depending on the final standings. At a minimum, they will face the Bengals in Week 8. Washington will play in London in 2016 for the first time since a 1992 preseason American Bowl game at the old Wembley Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers.
Bengals’ founder Paul Brown was never a big fan of prime-time games. Even though he helped develop the concept of night games, Brown was aware that his team would eventually have to be part of the rotation. He didn’t relish the fact that it took the teams out of a routine. London is a venture that brings that reality to light. But Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown are onboard with the International Series.
“We are proud to be a part of the NFL’s initiative to grow our game abroad, and we believe this game will be a source of pride for Cincinnati as well,” Bengals President Mike Brown stated in a press release. “It will provide a strong platform for our region’s culture and recent progress. And we’ve long known that we have fans in London and the U.K. A number have visited Cincinnati for games over the years. We know they will be out to cheer us on, along with fans from our area who choose to travel to the game.”
Participation in amateur football in the UK has risen by approximately 15 percent per year since 2007. That was the first year the NFL invaded London. The Miami Dolphins played the New York Giants, and a love affair was ignited. The latest figures show that 40,000 people age 16 or older play regularly. The league has played at least one game there every season since, including three each of the last two years. An expansion of the Series is planned with the league looking into games in Mexico, which could still be announced at a later date.
In October during the bye week, Bengals representatives headed to London. That included Bengals’ Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn, along with husband and Bengals Vice President Troy Blackburn, Connelly, and Chief Marketing Officer Brian Sells. Following negotiations and scheduling adjustments, the game was agreed upon after confirming the opponent wouldn’t be a division rival.
Until a week ago, the Bengals were still weighing the options and advantages of going to London. Now the only thing causing a minor snafu is the travel arrangements. Other than that, Coach Lewis and the Bengals are ready to roll.
“We’re excited to take our team to London and take on the Washington Redskins,” Lewis beamed. “We’re proud to show off the NFL game. And we always look for ways to keep a long season fresh and exciting for players. I know our players will respond well to this opportunity.”
[Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images]