NFL in London? Sell-out games boost hopes

A sell-out National Football League (NFL) match hosted in Wembley stadium in London on Sunday, in which the Dallas Cowboys beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, has boosted hopes of an NFL franchise coming to the U.K.

Mark Waller, NFL's vice president of international, told CNBC a move to London was a "definite possibility", after the huge success of the three NFL matches played in the city this year, but "logistic difficulties" still need to be resolved.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders dance as the Dallas Cowboys play the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL match at Wembley Stadium in London
Karwai Tang I WireImage | Getty Images
The Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders dance as the Dallas Cowboys play the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL match at Wembley Stadium in London

"We have around 3 million, what we call avid fans in the U.K., who are watching week in, week out. Then we have around 8 million casual fans. Both of those numbers are growing, and on Sky Sports – which is kind of the home of the NFL in the U.K.— we are now the fifth most watched sport," Waller told CNBC on Monday.

"We feel very confident that the fan passion and the fan demand is there for us," he added.

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The NFL, which is the U.S.'s leading professional American football league, has already announced plans to stage three regular season games at Wembley in 2015, including its first-ever division game in the U.K. The schedule will include games played on consecutive Sundays in London for the first time.

The move comes as part of NFL's push to popularize American football around the world. At present, soccer is the most popular sport outside the U.S., with around 265 million people across the globe actively involved in the sport, according to FIFA, soccer's governing body.

On Monday, Waller met with U.K. finance minister, George Osborne. Osborne has said previously said that the U.K. government backs plans for an American football team to be in London long-term.

Waller told CNBC the NFL is also looking to Germany, where there is a "great fan base", as well as Brazil.

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"Another market that is appealing to us is Brazil, where they have put a lot of infrastructure into their stadiums and that has the benefit of being on the same time zone as the U.S. so that would definitely be one to look at," he said.

The NFL has come under scrutiny in recent months due to allegations of domestic violence among its players. Commissioner Roger Goodell faced harsh criticism after the league's decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice for just two games following a domestic violence incident involving his then-fiancee (now wife).