NFL’s Goodell commits to ‘extraordinary’ international growth

By Simon Evans, AFP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used his annual pre-Super Bowl speech to highlight the “extraordinary” growth in popularity the league is enjoying internationally saying there would be no turning back from making the sport truly global.

Speaking in his “State of the League” address ahead of Sunday’s championship clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, Goodell said he had been overwhelmed by the response of fans in Europe to the league.

“Every time we play a game whether it’s in the UK or Germany, it’s just extraordinary to see the reaction of the fans,” Goodell said. “When we went to Germany, I don’t think any of us would have anticipated the kind of reaction we got there.”

The NFL played their first regular season game in Germany when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Seattle Seahawks in Munich in November.

Last month the league announced they will play two regular season games in the country in 2023 with the Chiefs one of the teams who will be involved.

The games will take place at Munich’s Allianz Arena, home to Bayern Munich, and Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park, home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Germany was a central part of the old developmental NFL Europe, which was closed down by Goodell in 2007 as the league shifted strategy.

But the Commissioner said the return of the league, in Munich, showed there was a future for the sport internationally.

“For our first game and having been somebody who was involved with American football in Germany through the NFL since 1989, to me, it was really rewarding to see how our fan base has expanded, and we want to make NFL football a global sport,” he said.

As well as the two Germany games, the NFL will also hold another three games in England — two at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and one at Wembley.

While some fans and pundits question whether five overseas games in a season is perhaps excessive, Goodell does not agree.

“I think we’ll continue on this path. We broke every record around our international games this year whether it was viewership or attendance. The excitement is just extraordinary. What our biggest challenge is how do we bottle that? How do we take that and how do we make NFL football a global sport. We’re well on our way to that, and we’re going to put a lot of focus on that.”

The NFL has previously played four regular season games in Mexico and Goodell said they intend to do so again in the future.

The Estadio Azteca is currently being renovated ahead of the 2026 World Cup but Goodell said once that was done, the venue would be back as an option.

“When we can come back, we’re coming back,” he said.