For the first time since 2006, there will be no NFL (National Football League) games staged in London this year.
The NFL has been staging games in the capital for more than a decade in order to expand the appeal of American football overseas. Initially starting with one game per season that was then increased to two and this year there were four scheduled, two at Wembley Stadium, and two at the home of Tottenham Hotspur in North London.
The games have proved to be immensely popular with UK audiences. Tickers sell out within days, months in advance, and they are shown live on satellite TV. They are also highly lucrative, generating millions of pounds in profit from ticket sales, broadcast rights, and merchandising. Spectators at the games are predominantly British the percentage of Americans or expats attending is relatively small.
However, like so many other sporting events this year, the matches have fallen victim to the coronavirus outbreak. Organisers have decided that it is not safe to stage the games in London due to the prevailing health situation and restrictions on international travel, and decided to reschedule them for the United States instead.
A similar fixture which was planned for the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, has also been cancelled, and will be moved to the US as well.
The cancellations were almost inevitable, given the likelihood that when sport of any kind football, cricket, rugby and horse racing, to name but a few does return in the UK, it will have to be staged behind closed doors for the foreseeable future. And organisers of the events have been understanding, saying that the health and safety of all involved must take priority.
However, it is a blow, particularly for Tottenham. They have a ten year deal with the NFL to stage two games a year, and given the lucrative returns available to them from hosting the games, it is a further blow to their finances, which have been heavily hit by the suspension of football due to the virus.
The NFL hopes to be able to return to London next year, providing that the global health situation permits.