Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Mark Wilf calls London trip 'unique opportunity' to gain exposure, improve the brand

Posted by: under Vikings Updated: October 16, 2012 - 5:43 PM

The Vikings will make a late-September trip to London next season, prepared to play a Week 4 game at Wembley Stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That contest will count as one of the Vikings’ eight home games and was officially rubber-stamped and announced this afternoon at the NFL owners’ meetings in Chicago.

Just a few minutes ago, Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf participated on a conference call with local reporters to discuss the news. Here is what Wilf had to say.

On the attraction of playing in London …

"We’re very excited. This is going to be a great opportunity for the Vikings’ franchise to represent and improve the brand of the Vikings and just a unique opportunity to create great awareness and exposure for the team and for the state on our international stage. So we embrace the opportunity. It’s going to be a great, great experience. And we know we have great fans, not just locally and in the United States but internationally as well. So we’re looking forward to the opportunity to play the Steelers."

On losing one of eight home games at the Metrodome in 2013 and what the incentive is to play overseas …

"Again, we really appreciate our passionate fans and the support they have for the team. But we really see this as just a unique opportunity to again create awareness and exposure for what we feel is one of the best brands in sports. And it’s a great opportunity for the team and the state and as well for the business community and for the tourism industry. So it’s a great opportunity and for our club as well. We feel like we’re going to get great support over there. And while we have a great home-field advantage in town, we feel like we’re going to have tremendous support for this game. And we look forward to growing professional football internationally. And we wanted to do our part toward that as well."

On whether this is just a one-year commitment to playing in London …

"At this point, we’ve expressed an interest in hosting a game. And this is a one-year commitment and that’s where we’re at at this point. After this season, I know the league will be sitting down and evaluating it. And our commitment is for one year at this point."

On whether the Vikings would have been better suited to play overseas during one of the seasons that they’ll be displaced from the Metrodome while their new downtown stadium is being built …

"The number one driver to this thing was, given the transition into the new stadium in ’16, we just felt this was an opportunity to really grow our brand, grow awareness and it’ll also be an exciting opportunity for our fans worldwide and also to promote a lot of the business and tourism of the state as well on an international stage. Those were the main drivers of this thing. As far as the timing of it, the league can maybe better answer that in terms of how they want to position the growth of the game internationally. But we wanted to do our part in that regard and felt like this was an opportune time to do it."

On whether the NFL helps teams financially to compensate for lost revenue from the one home game that is given up …

"Yes, there is financial support for this game. And again, it’s all part of an overall strategy that the league has to embrace the international game. But again, we feel like this is especially good for the brand of the Minnesota Vikings and the kind of fan base we have, especially in northern Europe. We’re really going to have a good turnout and a great feeling and we want to do as best we can to create as much of an excitement and home-field opportunity as we can over there."

On how the ticket situation will work for season-ticket holders who will only have nine games (including preseason) played in Minneapolis next season…

"Well, again, that’ll be addressed during the offseason. But of course our season ticket holders will be paying for one less home game. So if nothing else, it’s an opportunity for them to participate in this experience if they want to travel, those will be things we’ll be working on during the offseason. But certainly they’ll be playing for one less game next year as season ticket holders."

On whether the Vikings will have an open date the week after their game in London …

"Yes, there will be a bye week in Week 5. The game will be in Week 4 and we will have a bye week in Week 5."

On whether the Vikings have interest in exploring future trips to London in 2014 or 2015 as well …

"It’s an unknown to us what the experience will be like. And I know the league feels in a similar way. We’re going to go through the experience and then evaluate it afterwards to see how the experience goes for us and our ball club. But our number one priority right now is playing the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday and we want our entire operation and our football folks to be focused on a big game this weekend. And that’s where all our focus is. This is an exciting day for the Vikings franchise that we’re going to be playing a regular season game next season overseas. But we’re going to quickly refocus on this game this weekend."

On whether the players were consulted about the opportunity to play in London …

"This has been discussed with our football folks, with our general manager and our head coach and all these considerations have gone into this. Again, we’re excited for the opportunity and we’re hopeful that our players and our fans are going to embrace it and hopefully come out successful. This is a great opportunity to grow our brand and promote football and do great things for the businesses and the fans in our state as well."


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