The NFL has just finished another international series in London seeing sell out games at both Wembley and Twickenham stadium. With talks of a permanent London team being introduced in the NFL this asks the question, is American football the fastest growing sport in the London?
Rise in London
American Football first had a boom in the UK during the 70’s with people like Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins intriguing London fans of this new sport. That boom has contributed to the amount of success the NFL is having now as those old fans who grew up seeing the sport are now regaining their team spirits.
One of the biggest events of the summer was the NFL parade at Regents Street, now an annual event which attracts more than 600,000 people each year.
London’s most popular shopping area is closed off for a day to celebrate the city’s love of the game with different skills, challenges to test throwing and kicking abilities, speeches from former coaches and players as well as other entertainment and competitions.
Improving Fan Base
Each year, the London games sell out regular season games with the attendance amounting to nearly 350,000 fans live at the action, this clearly demonstrates the interest and commitment London has with the sport.
This has all been spurred on with the marketing of the Jacksonville Jaguars as ‘London’s Team’. This creates a sense of familiarity and excitement to young and new fans as the Jaguars are now in London every year for a ‘home game’ at Wembley.
With existing fans representing many different teams, it makes for a terrific atmosphere when watching live or sitting at home watching the game from the comfort of your sofa, the knowledge of the game and players is evident.
Now with several different programmes on UK TV such as The NFL show on BBC hosted by London born player Osi Umenyiora and Sky’s coverage of regular season games, the sport is covered and advertised more than ever.
The content being put out is increasing as the audience for it continues to grow.
This boom in the NFL has led to more people from London taking up the sport, with more London born players playing American football at university than ever before and some even going over to the NFL.
American Football began being played competitively from 2012/13 in the BUCs league and since then more and more teams have participated with over 70 teams currently in action in the BUCs league.
This has led to the emergence of more London teams who now host a pool of young talent interested in advancing their skills in this sport.
Speaking to ESPN, Andy Hunt, a New York Giants fan and a contributor to the fan site, Grid Iron and Gravy said, “When I first started watching the NFL 11 seasons ago, finding another NFL fan to talk about the sport with was quite an achievement. Now it’s so well known, you no longer feel like a lone wolf.”
Nielson Sports, a website that tracks statistics also reported that in 2011, only 8.1% of UK fans were interested in NFL, now that figure is at 12.3% which is the equivalent of 1.86m extra fans in the UK.
With an ever increasing fan base in London, it is evident that the demand for games will continue to grow. From next year, NFL games also will be coming to Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground.