Patriots Key Role In International Series

It has been announced that there will be two games played at Wembley Stadium in 2013, an upgrade on the one a year it has been since the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants kicked off the International Series in 2007. As a NFL and New England Patriots fan in the UK, this is obviously great news for me.

In 2012, the Patriots will make their second appearance at Wembley when they face the St. Louis Rams in Week 8, after facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers there in 2009, a game they won comfortably. And the Patriots, while not giving up a home game to go to Wembley, have been key players in the development of the NFL in the UK. The way the NFL and NFL UK have worked together to get some great match ups in London has been clever. Take a team that isn't the most popular (St. Louis, Jacksonville Jaguars) to give up a home game, then bring in a willing big boy to make the encounter attractive.

With the announcement that the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming next year to play the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL is really sending out a message that they aren't this messing around with the International Series. This is serious. The San Francisco 49ers are also making their second appearance at Wembley after playing the Denver Broncos in 2010. However, Mike Singletary was their coach, and Troy Smith was their starting QB. Now they're a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

I don't think this would have been possible without Robert Kraft, who has been influential to all of this. The most successful team of the 21st century flying out to England to play a regular season game? And then doing it again three years later? A pipe dream for many NFL fans in the UK. But Mr. Kraft has made this a reality. He has always spoken of his love of the UK - after all, his franchise is the most popular team across the pond - and is willing to support the sports development in England. And as we saw during the lock out last summer, Mr. Kraft is pretty influential.

A franchise in London? It is way too soon to discuss that. But this is a step in the right direction to see if it'll work. And it probably wouldn't have been possible if not for the Patriots.

Follow more ramblings from across the pond on Twitter @Brendan_Annely.