While the NFL has for many years been the number one sport in America, its population globally has also been growing around the world.
For many, even the casual fan, the chance to wager on NFL game lines and the compete in Fantasy Football Leagues has added to their interest and desire to watch.
The leagues superstars are becoming far more recognizable to the European market, the rules of the game are better understood while the access to watch live matches on television and in-stadium has boosted the NFLs following on the continent.
Now, with the continual increase in international games, the NFL is increasing its flowing and demand across the globe, especially in Europe.
Games in London
During the 1980’s, fans in England would need to stay up till the early hours to catch some of the NFL games on television. The options for games to see were limited and fans would need to plan expensive trips across the Atlantic to be able to take in a live game in a stadium.
Back in 2007, the NFL hosted its first International Series game between the Mami Dolphins and the New York Giants. The Giants became the first team to win a regular season match held outside of North America with a 13-10 win over the Dolphins.
Fans were delighted that they could finally see a regular season game in Wembley Stadium and the first 40,000 tickets were sold within 90 minutes of going on sale.
The International matches have since been a massive success in the United Kingdom. The Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to play four regular season home games in London, one a year from 2013 to 2016. The Jaguars have built a good following in the UK and in 2015 agreed to extend this through to 2020. In 2020 the Jaguars even played two home games on back-to-back weekends in Wembley Stadium, they have since played eight times in England since 2013.
As Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur built and moved into their new stadium in London, they had installed an NFL specific pitch underneath the soccer field with the intention of hosting more NFL games in the coming years.
The introduction of this stadium has shown that the demand is there in the UK, while having the facilities ensures that the partnership can continue to grow with the NFL for years to come.
Suggestions of a London based side have continued to circulate, though nothing has been confirmed so far. With the Jaguars owner, Shad Khan, also being an owner of Fulham Football Club in London, they have been considered the more likely though has cooled speculation in 2019 by saying, ‘Personally, in my humble opinion, I don’t think it’s anywhere near close to that. We don’t want to have more games than there’s really organic demand for.’
2022 Game in Germany
This season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the Seattle Sounders at Allianz Field in Munich. 800,000 people were reported to be in the virtual queue when tickets went on sale, showing the continual increase in demand for the NFL in Germany.
From 1991-2007, NFL Europe was a league run on the continent which featured five teams that were based in Germany. The league was created after the NFL saw the increased interest in the league without any real marketing push in Europe, leading the league to look to capitalize on its newfound success on the continent.
There are six German born players in the NFL this season, most of which play on the practice squads for their teams at the moment, but the interest is there, and the quality of the players continues to improve.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that after this season’s game in Munich there will be three more over the next three season, two in Frankfurt and one more in Munich.
‘We are very pleased to welcome Munich and Frankfurt to the NFL family and are excited to reward our fans in Germany for their passion by bringing them the spectacle of regular-season NFL football,’ Goodell gushed in a statement.
There has been a huge increase in the subscriptions to Game Pass in Germany, the NFLs streaming service, which has shown the rapid increase in more committed supporters.
Further Countries to host
Former Australian Rugby Player, Brett Gosper, took over the role of NFL Head of Europe and UK back in 2021. He moved from being the CEO of World Rugby, to take on the role of increasing popularity of the NFL across the continent, not just maintaining it.
England and Germany took time to build the right links with media, growing fanbases as well as putting on American Football camps for young people to learn and enjoy the game.
Countries like France and Spain look likely to be the next while the UK has set the level for European expansion. How the game has seen such a welcoming relationship with the international series in the UK, the willingness from team owners as well as the engagement from players, has been massive in its continual growth in England and Germany.
The league continues to grow and its next moves across the globe will be interesting to see.