American football is making a play for the lucrative British sports market, and already boasts a significant fanbase in the UK. Fostering the growth of the American NFL franchise, by setting up a London based team that locally plays eight games per season, has the potential to create a £100 million a year windfall for the capital.
A recent study from the Deloitte Sports Business Group has identified a growing demand in the UK for American football. The National Football League (NFL) franchise has a British fanbase of 13 million, 2.8 million of those fans are described as ‘avid’. There is a significant growth in the UK following of the sport, with a 30% increase on 2011. Not only is it a televised sensation, but the spectator aspect is attracting a significant following, in 2013 there were 167,000 UK spectators, with 80% of those arriving from outside of London where the sporting events were held.
Last season the two London games, played at Wembley, were a resounding success, averaging 15,000 more visitors than equivalent games in America. This year there will be three games played, with 2015 also expected to be a three game series. “We are pleased with the continued growth of NFL here in the UK and excited about the future of our sport in the UK. We have been delighted with the great response we have seen from our UK fans to the NFL games and events in London,” says Alistair Kirkwood, managing director of NFL UK. “Our focus continues to be on building our fan base by providing them with an unrivalled experience within the stadium and outside.”
The Deloitte Sports Business Group report finds that, were there to be four games played per season then the economic benefit to the capital would be £58 million. Were the capital to create an NFL franchise team, and play 8 games a season, it would boost the London economy by around £102 million per year. Last week Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said that “anything the Government can do to make this [a London team] happen we will do.” A sentiment echoed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Dan Jones, of Deloitte, adds: “Our analysis demonstrates the impact the NFL International Series has on the London economy. It is a valuable addition to the capital's calendar of major sporting events. If in future the NFL were to have a London hosted franchise we estimate that could deliver at least £100 million of direct economic benefit, as well as further reinforcing London's status as one of the world's top cities for sport.”