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Has American football finally found its British audience?
American football is the most popular sport in the USA. Who would have thought? Almost 100 million people tuned in to watch the 2019 Super Bowl. Funnily enough, football is also the most popular sport in the UK, and the world, with 3.5 billion fans worldwide. However, this time, by football we’re referring to soccer, a very different game.
While being hugely popular in the USA, with the NFL raking in over $8.1 billion in 2018, the popularity of American football remains a phenomenon mostly restricted to the US. That is, perhaps, until now.
Currently, there are around 80 countries across the globe with official American football leagues. Outside of North America, you can find the highest level of international football in Germany and Austria. In fact, German wide receiver Moritz Böhringer became the first player drafted into the NFL directly from a European league to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
China’s American football leagues became more popular when the NFL held a game there in 2018. Mexico is one of only two countries besides the United States whose league can pay players enough to make it their full-time job during the season. Japan is another country making waves in the IFAF World Championships frequently.
Despite this, the UK isn’t a country whose name you’ll often hear in relation to American football, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a growing scene.
American football in the UK
The British American Football Association (BAFA) is the go-to place for information about the American football scene in the UK. It features all the affiliated clubs which is useful for those looking for a way into the sport. For many though, the entrance lies in university teams who compete as a part of the British Universities American Football League. The British University Championships is the largest student American football competition in Europe and one of the largest in the world, consisting of three tiers. It’s also mixed-sex.
According to Mark Chapman, who anchors the BBC’s highlights show, the popularity of American football has risen substantially in the UK as viewers moved online. Viewership pushed past the 1 million mark, and people weren’t restricted by access to channels or strange showing times due to the time differences between the UK and the USA.
But the increasing popularity of American football in the UK isn’t purely an online phenomenon. London has hosted NFL games with sellout crowds for over ten years and there have even been rumours of the Jacksonville Jaguars moving to London.
American football is attracting new fans all the time not only because more people can watch the sport across the world, but also because it’s a great game. The huge, high-speed hits have packed stadiums on the edge of their seats while the intricate strategies of the game have many wondering who will come out on top. There’s a lot to love about American football, and with the new season having kicked off in August, it’s likely more people than ever will be tuning in across the UK.
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