GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — The Packers are the only NFL team that has not played a regular season game overseas, but that will change sometime before 2030.
League owners approved a change to a 17-game regular season schedule Tuesday. As a part of that change, starting in 2022 each team will now be required to play an international game every eight years, something the Packers have been hesitant to do because of the economic impact each game brings to the Green Bay area.
"Our home games relative to other markets just have such a big impact," Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said Tuesday. "It never made sense for us but obviously under this proposal - which was approved - we will be required (to play an international game)."
Since 2007, the NFL has regularly played games in London and has expanded in recent years. No games were held outside the U.S. last year due to COVID-19, but in 2019 there were four games held in London.
This new change guarantees four international games per season, with the potential for more if teams want to play overseas voluntarily.
Murphy said it will be scheduled by divisions. For example, all four NFC North teams would play an international game in the same year, maintaining a competitive balance.
In those years, the Packers would only have nine total home games (eight regular season and one preseason), down from the usual ten. This means the Green Bay area will lose the economic impact of a home game once every eight years. Each home game brings an estimated $15 million impact.
The Packers are the only NFL team that hasn't played an international regular season game. Asked if pressure from the league finally forced the team to give in, Murphy laughed and said "I guess that's one way to look at it," noting that it's now "required."
"I think when you step back and look at it, for the good of the league I think being able to grow the game internationally really is going to benefit the league long term," he said. "The fact that we still have eight home games (in those seasons) is a positive."
"If we play in London I think a lot of our fans are really going to be excited about the opportunity to travel internationally and go to London and be able to watch the Packers play internationally," Murphy added.
The international game wouldn't necessarily be in London. As of now, the league is looking at also playing in Mexico City, a place it has gone to in the past, and also Germany. Murphy said another proposal is exploring the possibility of playing in China, Brazil and Australia.