NFL in the UK: How far can it go?

Since 2007, Wembley Stadium has hosted at least one NFL match every season. In 2015, the iconic venue – which is primarily used for England’s men’s national soccer team – will host three NFL fixtures, with two of those on back-to-back weekends for the first time in the history of the sport. On Sunday 4th October, the New York Jets will face the Miami Dolphins before the Jacksonville Jaguars will host their clash with Buffalo Bills. One week on, the Kansas City Chiefs will give up a home game as they face Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.

The NFL in the UK has already come a long way but there are plans in place to ensure that more sports fans continue to develop an interest and get involved with the game. In fact, as of 2018, Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium will host at least two NFL games per year and will take over from Wembley as the host of the International Series. Despite this, Wembley Stadium will continue to host NFL matches but this may be limited to just one or two a season. As the sport continues to grow in the UK, so does its popularity.

NFL at Wembley Photo: Ben Sutherland

NFL at Wembley Photo: Ben Sutherland 

However, just how popular can American Football be in the United Kingdom? There are still hushed rumours of a London franchise in the future. While that sounds incredibly exciting, there are many doubts as to just how plausible a London franchise actually is. Firstly, most NFL fans who would attend the fixtures already support a team and it is very unlikely that they would break allegiance to follow the newly-formed side.

Secondly, the new franchise would struggle in its early days and may find it difficult to form a fully functioning team. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who have treated London like a second home since the International Series began, may be the franchise to merge with a new London side. Even then, they are rated as one of the worst sides in the NFL and, when this article was produced, the Jaguars were priced at 16/1 with betfair just to win the AFC South, let alone the Super Bowl. It would take copious amounts of forward planning and almost a decade to ensure that the franchise wouldn’t collapse in its early years.

Furthermore, the logistics are tricky. In fact, they’re incredibly difficult. The air miles that the players would clock up are staggering and the team would find it exhausting to travel across the Atlantic Ocean on a weekly basis. The divisional system, too. How would the NFL decide which division the newly-formed franchise would compete in? There are just too many problems that would contradict the long-standing rules and hurt the traditions of the National Football League.

Some have suggested that, although a London franchise may be a long way off, the possibility of London hosting the Pro Bowl or even the Super Bowl is no longer utterly outrageous. Midway through last season, there were whispered rumours that Brazil was due to host the Pro Bowl in the coming years, so why not London? At the end of the day, the city has hosted NFL matches in the past and an event containing the top players from the NFL’s 32 franchises would appeal to the mass population.

The Super Bowl is a little trickier and NFL fans in the United States wouldn’t be best pleased to see their showpiece event held across the pond. However, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility and, with American Football growing in popularity on a yearly basis, the United Kingdom might not be too far away from hosting the biggest event in the sport.

AFI
American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!
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