Football, for decades, has been one of America’s most loved sports. So much so that the Super Bowl is the most-watched event on a yearly basis.
However, our English brothers have taken a liking to the game we plan our Sundays around. Each year, the NFL schedules three games at London-based Wembley Stadium. And fans can’t get enough; over 85,000 fans turn out to watch the games, regardless of which teams are on the field.
The fans were in a party mood, drinking beer, eating hot dogs, embracing the American culture. Although this was just one regular season game, it certainly had a Super Bowl-like atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why the NFL hierarchy is keen to build on their ever-growing fan support, and the many millions more that come from the British fans.
The simple fact that the vast majority of these fans were cheering ‘Jaguars’ at the top of their lungs and waving Jags flags should say it all. The Jags aren’t the most popular or appealing of teams, however, the British treated them like an undefeated, legendary team. It is getting increasingly difficult to get a ticket, and soon London fans’ excitement over the game won’t be containable. Many Brits see the NFL as a sport they can love as their own, albeit sharing with the Americans.
The British fans are well and truly in love with the NFL, and the Jaguars’ four-year experiment with making London a second home has proven a fruitful one. They sold out each and every game and they’ve had the public vying for their permanent transfer to the British shores. The country is pushing for a franchise of its own, which could be coming in a matter of time, according to Roger Goodell. NFL London just isn’t enough, the market is simply too big, and produces far too much revenue for the NFL to ignore.
One unnamed Wembley Stadium executive had plenty to say when asked him if stadium officials might be looking to extend their hosting rights, or to bring a franchise over for good. The executive smiled, saying, “It’s a matter of when, not if. As far as the stadium hosting is concerned, we’ll be involved in some capacity.” It’s clear that the NFL-in-London experiment is going to continueto grow.
Are the NFL London games irreplaceable, could another country still their game-time away or will they manage to get their very own franchise in the coming years, quite possibly at the new stadium being built by English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs?
Hotspurs chairman, Daniel Levy, quickly recognized how much the game is growing in the UK, and how much hosting American football games could bring his franchise, and his city.
Once the new facility is completed, it will host a minimum of two games a year, for a 10-year period. With Wembley Stadium and now Twickenham also keen hosts, it’s unlikely to suggest NFL activity in London will decline any time soon.
“We have an opportunity now to deliver one of the most unique sports, leisure and entertainment venues in the world, bringing together the EPL [Premier League] and NFL for the first time,” said Levy. “The socio-economic benefits this will bring to the area will be immense and demonstrates our commitment to the regeneration of this priority borough in London.”
The NFL is making a difference to not only the British sports scene, but the economy also, especially in London. Millions of pounds was spent on merchandise, food and pretty much anything with any resemblance to the NFL, or the visiting teams.And the local economy is not the only beneficiary of the exhibition games; the NFL makes a reported 7-8x the average game that’s held in America, it’s clear that this will continue, and grow.
America is at a point in which it needs to share its game, both for the love of its entertainment, and the financial revenue it brings to all parties involved.
Boris Johnson, a British politician, recently said, “Anyone who has seen American football at Wembley Stadium cannot fail to have been thrilled by the spectacle.”
It’s not only the overseas fans that are enjoying themselves. The players have continuously backed it, too, saying it’s second to only the Super Bowl experience. Players that have yet to play in England are finding themselves full of excitement, too.
Take Andrew Luck for example.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback spent a large chunk of his childhood living in England, and now he’s happy that the NFL is reaching across the pond, and he’s even happier to be playing there.
After learning the Colts would play in London he said he was “excited. Division game, Jacksonville, they mean a lot, they really do. The honest truth is the division is always tough. The outside perception might be that a teams down. Every team is really, really good.”
But beyond the competition itself, Luck was most excited to be able to play in front of friends and family who have “never seen me play.”
A few months ago, Roger Goodell backed the idea of a London franchise, but said, “We’re still trying to make sure we can do it from a proper competitive standpoint. You don’t want to put a team over there and have them at a competitive disadvantage. And then the logistics, how you work that out. That’s not easy.”
“The basic strategy is to grow our game,” he continued. “We think that any time we share our game with people in other markets, they love it. I‘m very optimistic about our continuing growth on a global basis.”
Teams are growing used to the idea, too. He concluded, “I think we’re going to have at the end of this season, 24 of our 32 teams will have played internationally, the demand from the teams to go over far exceeds the number games we’re playing now. We don’t really have to push teams to go anymore. They want to go.”
Everyone involved seems desperate to make it a reality. The British public, the economy and the NFL need each othes. There are a few loose ends that need tying up, but with a 10-year deal with Spurs starting next year, more demand than ever before, the growing acceptance across all in the States, and the BIG, big money (of course), it’s widely accepted that it’s a question of when, and not if.
Should the NFL stop its love affair with the UK, or is it now not only a vital sporting event for the Brits, but also a vital resource for the NFL for so many reasons?
One die-hard Giants fan living in London said, “I’ve supported the Giants for almost 10 years now, after watching them for the very first time in the 2007 season on the way to the Super Bowl. Of course I didn’t go to the game against the Dolphins in London that season though, and so have been waiting patiently for them to come over again ever since. In the last three years I’ve been to see Vikings/Steelers, Lions/Falcons and Dolphins/Jets at Wembley — all of which have been brilliant spectacles, but this time around it will be something special to see Eli, Odell & company (finally!) in the flesh!”
This kind of blows the ‘create your own NFL’ theory that some American fans have completely out of the water. The fans are lining up, paying big bucks, all to see the likes of Odell Beckham Jr and Eli Manning
Of course one could assume it was easy for a Brit to grow attached to a Super Bowl-winning regular. However, his admiration for the Giants goes much further than that. He continued, “Although I’ve seen a fair bit of glory in my less-than-a-decade as a supporter with the two Super Bowl triumphs, I feel like I’ve earned my badges as a supporter sticking with them through some fairly awful seasons as well, and watching them at all times of the night and often morning…”
It’s hard to think the NFL would want to stop this fame-and-revenue boosting affair they have going n with their across-the-pond brothers.
Sooner or later, given the fan interest, and the NFL’s willingness, and London executives, it seems as if we will soon be sharing football with the British each and every week, quite possibly while enjoying their very own franchise week in and week out.