Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Single-Minded Man with a Global Vision

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Single-Minded Man with a Global Vision

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Milham

EXPANSION is a hot topic in the NFL. As the new American Football season kicks off tonight, with the defending champions New Orleans Saints hosting the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of last January's Super Bowl semi-final, owners of the 32 teams continue to quibble with the players' union over the merits of extending a 16-game regular season by two games.

While the plan is almost certain to be pushed through -- primarily to boost the already cash-rich League's income -- San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary believes that the bigger picture could soon change as well.

On 31 October, his 49ers head to Wembley Stadium to face the Denver Broncos for a clash that could have play-off ramifications. It could also help pave the way for global expansion.

"In the near future I'd like to see more games overseas, in Europe," said Singletary. "NFL football is a tremendous sport, the ultimate team sport. The more people that see it, they are going to like it and want it.

"I can definitely envision a franchise outside of the US, because the world is getting smaller.

"I think it would be a great opportunity, for someone who has the vision, to have a franchise in London. I can see it happening."

Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker and cornerstone of the Chicago Bears defence of the mid 1980s, starts his second full season in charge of a franchise that has not been to the play-offs for seven years.

However, Bill Walsh, who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories in the Eighties, did not start winning in San Francisco until his third year.

Singletary hopes that travelling 33,264 miles this season, more than any other team in the NFL, will not hamper their progress as they search for only their second NFC West division title in 13 years.

"The trip to London is perfect. It comes at a good time for us. …

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