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Raiders to play NFL guinea pig in London in 2018

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Oakland Raiders v Miami Dolphins Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Next season the Raiders are headed back to London for the second time in the past five seasons. This time, however, there is a slight wrinkle. They won’t be playing in the usual locale at the massive 90K seat Wembley Stadium. And that’s where it gets tricky.

The stadium is the new home of the Tottenham Hotspur. Thing is, though, that stadium isn’t even constructed yet. And if you think its just some finishing work that is still left to be done, think again. Two days ago, on January 12, they put out the latest photographs of the stadium construction.

When the Raiders take on the Seahawks in week six of the season, they will be taking on the NFL’s avante garde role at this new stadium. That is, of course, if everything stays on schedule for their August opening.

That leads to the inevitable question; what if it isn’t ready to host the game by then? Well, first option would be to move it to another location in London. The two other logical stadiums are Wembley and Twickenham.

Wembley is no guarantee because it could be there is another event taking place there on October 14, the day of the game. And if the Hotspur’s stadium isn’t ready, they too will be playing at Wembley, further making for some complicated logistics.

Twickenham hosted two NFL games last season — third ever —, but they could be tricky as well. The NFL has an option to play two games there, but the local council for Twickenham asked for no games this season after transportation issues last year.

The final option would be to bring the game back to Oakland. The NFL doesn’t want that final option. Even though it would mean instead of two West Coast teams traveling halfway around the world, only the Seahawks would make the quick trip from Seattle to Oakland.

Let’s set aside contingency plans for now and say everything stays on schedule for the opening of the stadium and the game goes forward as expected. What we are looking at is still a situation where there will be issues to work out. This is a beta test, if you will. A trial run. There will inevitably be hiccups and hangups and the NFL is expecting that.

NFL chief Mark Waller said as much upon the announcement, saying this game “enables us to achieve important learnings relating to the fans’ preferences, ticketing, team logistics and local transportation and infrastructure in order to create the best possible experience and environment.”

They will then use what they learned from the this game experience to be sure they get it right next season when they are planning to hold two games there.

Yeah, there’s a lot of ‘hoping for the best’ going on with this whole plan. Waiting until 2019 to hold an NFL game there probably would have been wiser, but whatevs. Just jump in head first.