NFL Invades Wembley
The NFL’s annual international series game at Wembley has become a feature of the British sporting landscape.
This weekend’s latest NFL game in London will feature the New England Patriots @ St Louis Rams. The Rams are
the nominal home team for the occasion, though with a sizable UK fanbase for
the Pats, it may not feel like it.
St Louis are coming off a bruising loss against the Green Bay Packers, though they are better than their 4-3 record suggests. The Patriots meanwhile come off an overtime win over the New York Jets. The Patriots were far from their best in that game, relying on a fumble by Jets QB Mark Sanchez in overtime to record the victory.
A win is a win, but the Patriots have been far from impressive in this season, despite coming off a super bowl appearance in February.
The New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins 13-10 in the first International Series game in 2007. San Diego Chargers, the New Orleans Saints, the Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears have all played regular-season games at Wembley since the inception of the international series.
It was recently announced there would be not one but two Wembley games in 2013, showing the league’s commitment to a UK, and international, fanbase is only strengthening. A UK franchise is no longer the pipe dream it once was.
The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said at his press conference announcing a second Wembley game in 2013: "Since we started playing regular-season games in London five years ago, we have heard very clearly from our UK fans – they want more football. We are excited to play two games in London and take this next step in the growth of our game. We believe that more football will lead to more fans."
The Steelers will take on the Vikings in the second game next year. The Jaguars were already slated to host the 49ers in 2013.
The NFL’s own figures claim there is a UK fanbase of 11 million American Football fans. Two million of whom are considered hardcore fans. UK TV ratings for the NFL have greatly increased in recent years. The sport has never been so popular in the UK since an 80s heyday in which Channel 4 introduced the sport to a British fan base.
Sunday viewership of NFL games is up 154% in the UK and the Super Bowl audience has increased 74% since 2006, according to the league.
It couldn’t be a more exciting time for NFL fans in the UK
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