England could return to Sunderland – if NFL deal goes through

Darius Vassell scores for England against Turkey in the last international to be played at the Stadium of Light, back in April 2003
Darius Vassell scores for England against Turkey in the last international to be played at the Stadium of Light, back in April 2003
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SUNDERLAND could get another chance to stage England internationals.

England matches could be taken around the country again from 2018 if the Football Association secures an NFL franchise, it can be disclosed.

The FA has made winning an American football franchise to be based at Wembley a priority and it is understood that would open the way to holding a few England games away from the national stadium.

During the construction of the new Wembley, England matches were held in packed stadiums in different parts of the country including Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, Old Trafford in Manchester, Newcastle’s St James’s Park, Villa Park and Southampton’s St Mary’s, among others.

The Stadium of Light played host to a 2-1 friendly victory over Belgium in 1999, following up with a memorable 2-0 victory over Turkey in a Euro 2004 qualifier.

The FA agreed a deal to play all England games at Wembley until 2017, but there will be some flexibility when that current deal ends, although the majority of the matches would still be held at the national stadium.

That could see games such as last month’s friendly against Norway, which saw a record low turn-out for the new Wembley, played at a regional venue.

Securing an NFL franchise would be a lucrative earner for the FA, which owns Wembley, and allow the governing body to look at options for England games.

Three NFL games are taking place at Wembley this season which bring in estimated revenues of £3million per game.

Last year, Wembley managing director Roger Maslin said he was confident the stadium could stage a whole season of eight NFL games.

He said: “Football is our priority. But, yes, I’m absolutely confident that if the NFL wanted to have franchise here then we could absolutely do it.”