Five regular-season NFL games set to be played in London and Mexico City this year will instead take place in the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced Monday.
The scheduled games had originally included two for the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London and two at Tottenham’s new facility, hosted by the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins. The Arizona Cardinals were also set to host a game at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium.
The NFL has hosted regular season games in London since 2007, with the Jaguars hosting one game per season every year since 2013. A regular season game was played in Mexico City in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
“[I]n order for the entire season to be played in NFL teams’ stadia under consistent protocols focused on the well-being of players, personnel and fans ... Commissioner Roger Goodell made this decision after consultation with our clubs, national and local governments, the NFL Players Association, medical authorities and international stadium partners,” the NFL said in a statement Monday, according to The Associated Press.
“While the NFL’s many fans in London, the U.K. and Europe will obviously be disappointed by this news, it is absolutely the right decision to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the sport,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. “I know that the NFL remains fully committed to London and I look forward to welcoming NFL teams back to the capital in 2021.”
“After considerable analysis, we believe the decision to play all our games domestically this season is the right one for our players, our clubs, and all our fans in the U.S., Mexico and U.K.,” said Christopher Halpin, an NFL executive vice president. “We greatly appreciate the support of our governmental and stadium partners in Mexico and the United Kingdom, who all agree with this decision, and we look forward to returning for games in both countries in the 2021 season.”
The NFL is still tentatively set to play its regular 2020 season but has reportedly discussed playing in empty stadiums over COVID-19 fears. The NBA and National Hockey League all suspended the remainder of their 2019-2020 seasons due to the pandemic; Major League Baseball suspended spring training and has delayed the season's start.