UK football fans absolutely love their favorite team. They follow the latest news, the scores, and even what their favorite players are doing off of the field. However, we were also wondering if they were increasingly gravitating towards American Football as well. We are going to examine the popularity of the NFL in the UK and if momentum is picking up towards another popular type of football played elsewhere in the world.
UK fans are also increasingly placing their bets on the results of American Football games. Betting odds sites are becoming more and more popular as UK fans try to make informed decisions before placing their bet on American football. We wonder if this is a function of the popularity of sports betting websites increasing, or of the increased popularity of the NFL in the UK.
NFL Television Ratings in the UK
There does appear to be evidence that the NFL’s television ratings have been increasing significantly in the UK over the past few years. For example, the NFL’s weekly ratings have reportedly doubled over the last decade for Sky Sports. Also, very recently, TV viewership reportedly rose 32% throughout the UK for the 2018 season. The 2019 numbers are still being finalized. Admittedly, the popularity of the NFL is still not near the level of football in the UK. However, interest is definitely growing when you consider the increases in television viewership.
About 21 million UK sports fans watched an NFL game in the year 2018. Sky Sports reportedly broadcasts a full 110 hours of NFL coverage every week now as well.
Attendance at NFL Games in the UK
Attendance has been so impressive in the UK that reportedly NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has recently considered holding a future Super Bowl in London. The NFL held four games in the UK this year and all four games sold out. The games played at Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur drew crowds totaling 289.041 fans. Additionally, the 28 games played in London since 2017 have had a total attendance of 2,226,356 fans. This works out to an average attendance of 80.941 per game. The NFL averages 67,042 fans per game in the US, so the UK actually is doing better in that department amazingly enough.
Almost every team in the NFL has now played a game in the UK, with thirty-one of the NFL’s thirty-two teams making an appearance. The only team that hasn’t played a game there yet is the Green Bay Packers. However, they may make an appearance during the upcoming 2020 season. The NFL managing director in the UK, Alistair Kirkwood, is working on that as we speak.
Will the UK Ever Get an NFL Franchise?
Kirkwood says that the UK will only have a chance of having its own NFL team if NFL league owners decide that they want a team there. However, the growth of the sport, and the league, in the UK has been fairly explosive lately. Kirkwood admits that with continued growth, the UK has an excellent chance of having its own NFL team someday.
It has been said that the NFL playing real regular-season games is a huge reason for their success in the UK. Most leagues only play “international exhibition games” which do not actually mean anything. This isn’t the case for the NFL. That makes a lot of difference in the eyes of a lot of fans, we suspect.
The NFL’s Social Media Growth in the UK
Younger fans are certainly giving the NFL and American Football a boost in the UK. The NFL has over one million fans now following them on social media. Their UK Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts grew at a rate of 16% in 2018.
The players that younger fans are gravitating to include very young, dynamic Quarterbacks like recent Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs along with Superstar Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens.
The league is having so much success with younger fans in the UK that they have launched the NFL Academy in London recently for athletes who are 16-18 years old.
Who’s the Most NFL Popular Team in the UK?
The most popular NFL team in the United Kingdom is the New England Patriots. This may surprise some people in the UK given the historical reference in play with the “Patriots.” However, we suspect most younger fans either don’t care about that or see the word “England” in the Patriot’s name and somehow relate to the team. Either that or they’re simply fans of Tom Brady. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots fair with fans in the UK if Brady indeed decides to play for another team in 2020.
Overall, the popularity of the NFL in the UK is gaining tremendously. They do seem to be increasingly gravitating towards American Football on the whole.