Martin Fullard draws comparisons between football and American Football…
As the National Football League (NFL) London Games took place in early October, the corporate hospitality company Hospitality Finder said that they had seen a huge rise in demand for corporate tickets over the last seven years.
Ever since the NFL London Games first debuted in 2007 at Wembley it’s proven to be quite a hit, sparking increased interest across the UK. That’s despite concerns it was just a fad.
Since Hospitality Finder began selling tickets to NFL games in 2012, bosses say sales have gone up by 2,100% to date, with a big boost in 2016 when the NFL added new games at Twickenham.
This year the first NFL game took place at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, instead of Twickenham, on a new multi-purpose pitch with the Chicago Bears playing Oakland Raiders in front of a crowd of 61,500 fans.
A week later the Carolina Panthers took on Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the stadium with a further two games following at Wembley.
According to viewing figures, Sky’s coverage has also been growing by 30% each year, with 20m people watching some NFL content in 2018.
This underlines the impact American sport is having on the UK, and its big business.
American sport, particularly the NFL, is very far detached from English football, sorry, ‘soccer’, in the context of this column. The US has the Seattle Seahawks versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have Morecambe versus Grimsby Town.
The idea of a man standing on a damp, windswept terrace in Accrington, wearing a flat cap and gnawing on a steak and kidney pie is quite far removed from a Super Bowl half time show in which a single cheerleader’s daily pay equates to that of the Rochdale FC annual player budget.
In the UK we love to suffer with our sport. We’ve always loved standing in the rain and moaning about it. But it seems crumbling terraces and cold pies have had their time. Beyond the bubble of the top of the Premier League, our national sport often struggles to whip up large-scale interest
The NFL has shown the UK what sport can be like: it’s an occasion. Each game is marketed as a one-time-only event that you simply cannot miss.
The UK gave the world many sports, and in recent times the international bodies that now run them have made them ‘better’. It’s probably time to hand the baton over to the US. We’ve given them the stadiums, now let them show us how to use them.