Roger Goodell: We are very pleased to announce that next season for the first time, the NFL will be playing two regular season games in London. As you know, last week we announced that Jacksonville will host San Francisco at Wembley Stadium on October 27, 2013. Today, we’re announcing that the Minnesota Vikings will host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley on September 29, 2013.
This is a very significant and important step going forward for our fans in the UK (United Kingdom), for the NFL in general and for the teams involved. We’re obviously very excited and we have both owners here. We’re going to ask each of them if they would like to make a few comments and take any questions you might have.
Mark Wilf: Thank you, commissioner. We at the Minnesota Vikings are very honored to represent the NFL on such a global scale in an effort to grow the game of professional football and we embrace this exciting opportunity. It’s a unique opportunity for the Vikings organization to highlight our great brand on an international stage. Playing in London will provide an exceptional exposure to the team, as well as Minnesota’s impressive business community and tourism industry. The Vikings have an incredibly, strong following in the US, but we also have great fans throughout the world. We look forward to playing in front of our international fan base. Our focus will be on creating a seamless transition for our football operations and creating a memorable experience for our fans. We’re really excited and look forward to playing the Steelers next September in London. Thank you.
Art Rooney II: The Steelers are also very excited to be able to play a game in London and thanks to the Vikings for being the host. Steelers’ fans have distinguished themselves over the years for being great travelers so we’re looking forward to seeing many Steeler fans over in London. We think it will be a great experience for our team and our fans. We’re really looking forward to it.
On there being any significance to the game being in September, when traditionally the game is usually played in October:
Goodell: As we said, we already have a game in late October. The feeling was a balance between giving some period of time between the two games. We thought four weeks was the right time because we have a number of fans who will hopefully attend both of those games and some of them are not all in the London area – they come throughout Europe. Second of all, I think it balances the operational issues that we have because the stadium has other events going on and we want to make sure that we’re accommodating to those events to make sure that this can be done with the same operational control. Obviously, the field itself and the stadium is an important element of that.
On if the second game was put earlier in the season so it does not disrupt any team’s playoff push or rhythm toward the end of the season:
Goodell: I think it is a fair comment to say that teams would probably like to have that game in September rather than November. I think that is a fair comment. Again, this is a first for us. We’re going to learn a lot from the experience and we’ll obviously base our decisions going forward off of this experience and what we learned.
On when the decision was made by the Vikings and his expectation of the reaction from their fans:
Wilf: We know we have great fans and tremendous home field support, but this was a unique opportunity for us and for growing our brand and franchise and also, supporting the NFL in growing the game of football, internationally. From all of those standpoints and transitioning into a new stadium, we felt that this was an opportunity for us to host a game. We appreciate our fan base, but we have fans throughout the world that I know will host a great game in London next year.
On the second game being in London rather than somewhere else in Europe:
Goodell: We spent an awful lot of time talking about that, our staff in the UK and back here, in trying to balance what was the right next step. It comes back to believing in the fans in the UK, in particularly in London. We think the stadium is fantastic. It’s a great stage for us, but we wanted to deliver two games to our fans in London and build that audience, specifically. We know fans are coming throughout Europe. We think that’s a positive. The four weeks will help those fans be able to come, go home and come back again for the second game. We think this is a part of building a fan base in London and by playing both of them at Wembley Stadium that will help achieve that goal faster.
On making one of the London games a ‘primetime’ game in the United States:
Goodell: That means the game will be played at two in the morning. I think that would be tough. We’ve discussed a number of alternatives – playing in the mid-afternoon, what would be now the late-afternoon. We’ve also talked about an earlier game in London – which would be earlier in the morning here in the United States – what you might want to call a ‘triple afternoon header’ because you have an early game, the 1:00 game, the 4:00 game. We even debated that a little bit and that may happen in the future, but right now, we think this is the best opportunity for success and again, we’ll learn from this.
On the most tangible benefit for the Steelers organization:
Rooney II: I think number one is to be able to play in front of Steelers’ fans in Europe. We have a lot of fans in other countries and it will be the first opportunity we’ve had to play a game in Europe. We’ve played in Ireland once before. There was a certain member of the family who was pushing hard to have a game in Ireland [laughing], but we’re exciting about playing in London. Hopefully, we’ll have opportunities in the future to play in other international games because it gives you a chance to develop fans in other countries, as well as present your team in front of fans that you already have in those other countries. A lot of good reasons to do it, I think.
On a game in Ireland being a viable possibility sooner rather than later:
Goodell: As Art mentions, there’s an ambassador over there that has a great deal of interest in the NFL coming to Ireland again soon. We know we have great fans over there. I think it goes back to the question – we believe that we can build our fan base in London faster by playing two games in London and it’s a great facility. We feel this is the right set for us now.
On how much the decision to play multiple games in London is part of the strategic plan for possibly having a team in London or Europe full-time:
It is a big part of it. Again, if we can play multiple regular-season games there, that gives you a better opportunity to be successful if you choose to put a franchise in London. But again, that is the other reason for putting two games in London – we are trying to build that fan base in London. We welcome the fans coming from other parts of Europe. But this is a way to really build that fan base right now in London, which will be critical if you did have a franchise there.
On if any teams are interested in relocating to London:
More and more teams are interested in playing there, either as a visiting team or a host team. That is very positive. The experience they have had; the teams that have gone – they felt that is was a very positive thing, for their team both from a football standpoint and from their fan standpoint. The Jaguars have committed to be the home team for several years. They believe that is good for the city of Jacksonville and for their fans. I believe that also. I was down there when we announced the series, and I think it is a very healthy thing, because it will help build Jacksonville as an international city. That is how they are looking at it.
On future Super Bowl sites:
One other quick announcement: Our Super Bowl Committee met yesterday afternoon and presented to the ownership this afternoon. There will be three bid cities for Super Bowl L and LI – Houston, San Francisco, and South Florida. The bids will be presented and owners will vote on both of those games at the May meeting in 2013. The owners will vote between San Francisco and South Florida regarding Super Bowl L. Owners will then vote at the same meeting on the host of Super Bowl LI between Houston and the runner-up from Super Bowl L.
On the approval of Jimmy Haslam and the impact he can have in Cleveland:
We are fortunate to have had Jimmy as a limited partner in Pittsburgh. We all know Jimmy and his family and their passion for football, their tremendous business acumen and what we think they will bring to the NFL and to the Cleveland Browns in particular. Cleveland Browns fans should be very excited. Randy Lerner and his family deserve a lot of credit for finding an owner that is committed to that community and wants to build a great franchise for the long-term that will win on the field and also be a team that community will be very proud of. I know from having spent an awful lot of time in Cleveland that there is a tremendous fan base there. I know Jimmy understands that, and he is committed to building a franchise that everybody is going to be proud of. It is good for Cleveland, and it is also good the NFL, because he will be very active on league-level matters also.
On if the franchise in Cleveland has grown stale and if this is an effort to change that:
No, this is a personal decision the Lerner family made to sell the franchise. It starts with that. Any time there is an ownership transfer, though, there is a new generation of leadership and focus. Jimmy has a lot of views on how he is going to bring that franchise to life and really take it to another level. It is a great franchise. It has a great tradition in the league. That is something that is really valuable to build with, but he wants to take it to the next level. I think that kind of energy is only good for the fans and only good for the NFL.
On how Joe Banner will pair with Jimmy Haslam:
That is Jimmy’s decision. Joe is a proven executive in the NFL. He did a fantastic job with the Philadelphia Eagles. I think he was instrumental in getting the stadium built and positioning that team properly in Philadelphia from the community standpoint. Obviously, he worked very closely with the football operations people and helped build one of the more successful franchises over the last decade. So he is a proven executive, and I think he will be beneficial to Jimmy, but also in helping build the kind of franchise Jimmy and his family want.
On Mark Davis and the efforts to build a new stadium in Oakland:
At one point in the meeting today, we had updates on various stadium developments. Oakland was one of them. The legal office did the presentations. I was out there late last fall and met with some of the officials. Our staff was with the Raiders and meeting with the Oakland officials recently. I think there is a very strong recognition that they need a new stadium. That is going to be something they are going to have to have in that community to be successful going forward. Everyone is working toward trying to figure out a way to do that. They are complicated projects. They have not only financing challenges, but how you do it in the context of the overall development and priorities of the community. Mark is committed to try and find those solutions in Oakland. But it takes a lot of work. We all know we have to continue to focus to find those solutions.
On the best lessons from the San Francisco stadium project as it relates to Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego:
The first lesson is we can get it done in California. We have been working for a long time to get a new stadium built in California. It has been a challenge for us. We have obviously been unsuccessful in those other markets, including Los Angeles. San Francisco has gotten that done with their Santa Clara stadium. It is a very positive thing for the league. I hope that we will be able to replicate that in other markets in California.
On Los Angeles stadium updates:
Los Angeles is part of our market/stadium update today. (NFL EVP of NFL Ventures and Business Operations) Eric Grubman gave that update. He was out in Los Angeles recently. The challenge for us there is to find a solution that works for the community and works for the team. The stadium is a critical component. We have to get a new stadium that is going to work for the long term of the team, the fans and for the community. There are some positive developments out there. There are several sites that are interested. I will let them discloses themselves. The two that are most talked about are the Roski site and the AEG site. Obviously, with the public sale of AEG, that creates some different dynamics we will continue to stay involved with and make sure we are on top of.
There is an effort to try to get back into on a successful basis, but it takes a lot more work.
On AEG’s sale affecting the stadium proposal:
In Los Angeles, we have obviously had a lot of starts and stops. It is complex to get anything done in the Los Angeles market. We want to do it right when we do it. Phil Anschutz made the decision to sell AEG for reasons outside of NFL football. He had his own personal reasons. I spoke to him personally about it. It is very possible while this may delay an ultimate solution for some period of time, it may also accelerate an alternate solution because it may create opportunities. The focus is on selling the asset first, and we will have to obviously stay as close as we can to that but see if there is an opportunity for us to get an NFL stadium built that will work for one team or two teams.
On if the Dodgers Stadium-Chavez Ravine site is viable:
There is some interest. I was sitting [today] at the front of the table when the L.A. update was being given realizing that it has been 17 seasons since we were in Los Angeles. We spent a lot of time focusing on the Dodger Stadium site. It is a terrific site. Obviously, they have gone through an ownership change. They are going to have to determine their priorities as it relates to the Dodgers and what else they want to do with that property. I understand there is some interest, and we certainly will engage in discussions.
On Browns LB Scott Fujita’s recent comments about Commissioner Goodell:
I don’t have any comment.
On if he apologized to Fujita for the reports of the Saints bounty investigation prior to the two’s recent meeting:
No, that is part of what these processes are for. It was great that he came in. He shared his perspective, and it was helpful.
On players asking him to recuse himself from the Saints proceedings:
I have been in the meetings. I understand the union has sent some type of a letter. I thought it was a union letter, but whatever it is, we will certainly respond to those letters when I have a chance to focus on them after these meetings.
On if the league preferred Lerner sell the Browns prior to his announcement the team would be sold:
No, you always want ownership that is obviously interested and passionate and wants to make a difference. When Randy (Lerner) and his family made the decision that it was time for them to move on, it is time to move on. We assisted them in trying to achieve their objectives. They were terrific to work with during the process and before the process. I salute the Lerner family for what they did to get the Cleveland Browns established back in Cleveland and for also handing it off to people who are committed to the community like the Haslams and who are think are going to do a terrific job with the Browns. That should be a tribute to them.
On if the NFL helped connect the Haslams and Banner with the Browns:
On if Haslam discussed a desire to host a Super Bowl in Cleveland and if discussions to add a dome to the stadium may affect a bid:
I haven’t had that conversation with Jimmy. The dome would be one aspect of it. There is still capacity at the stadium. We’d have to look at that. It is really more the infrastructure now for Super Bowls. The number of hotel rooms and the types of things that are necessary to host an event that just continue to grow and become more and more challenging for communities. I don’t know how that would fit with Cleveland, but that is something, if he is interested, we will certainly look at.
On considering discipline for additional Saints players when sanctions were reissued to the original four:
No. We made that determination early on that, in our view, we were focusing on the leadership and the people who were involved with what we would consider the leadership of the players’ side. That was something that we wanted to hear from them. We wanted to understand the facts from them, but I never considered that.
On Adderall and health and safety
Any of those issues are critically important to player health and safety at the end of the day – making sure that our players understand the risk and making sure we are doing everything possible to educate and also do everything we can that everything that could create a risk for our players long term is something they are fully aware of and something we can take out of the game.
On further discussions with the NFLPA on HGH testing:
Yes, as a matter of fact, I spoke to (NFLPA Executive Director) DeMauric Smith) about it last week. It is something that is important from several fronts: 1) the player health and safety, I believe, is a very important initiative; and 2) It is important for the integrity of the game. I understand the union’s position that they want to do it right. It is reasonable. We believe the testing has developed and science has been developed so that it is something that can get done right. We believe that science is there. I am still hopeful we can get it done.
On if the NFL and NFLPA are closing the gap on an agreement for HGH testing:
I don’t know if I look at it that way until you get an agreement. We thought we had an agreement. We don’t have an agreement. I don’t think I make judgments about whether the gap has closed. I know we have tried to address the issues that they have raised. We will continue to try to do that because we want the best program in sports. It is important to do that.
On continuing to enhance safety and security and NFL games:
It is not just the physical structure. It is also making sure that people feel safe coming to your events. You have to work with the local police and the local law enforcement officials. I had direct conversations prior to last year’s (NFC) Championship game when we had several Saints fans who had that experience coming into San Francisco. We took a lot of steps to try to improve that experience in the stadium, some undercover and some were a visual show of force. If we have things that are going to stand in the way of our fans coming to our events, that is a bad thing. Safety is probably high on the list. It is probably the highest on the list. They have to be able to come to your stadiums and feel safe.
On Haslam being appointed to NFL committees:
We have had some discussions. I probably need to get back to Jimmy (Haslam). I won’t share it with you first, if you don’t mind.
On Saints players and bounty program:
I know this: We believe that it was our responsibility to do everything to protect the integrity of the game and player health and safety. This information was brought to us three years ago. We then had new information come up just under a year ago late last season, followed it and I think established very clearly that this was occurring. We disclosed it and we are dealing with it because bounties don’t belong in football, and we are going to make sure they aren’t there in the future. That is good for the game.
On the changes to the free agency anti-tampering policy:
We have discussed this probably the last two or three years at least about whether a window would be helpful. There are at least two clubs today who spoke up that don’t think this will solve the problem, but most of the other clubs thought let’s try it and see if this will help improve the situation and provide a more level and competitive landscape for all 32 teams – really what you want from the anti-tampering policy.