If you were anywhere near the London tube network last Sunday, you couldn’t have failed to notice Americans. Not the map-wielding Americans often to be found looking for Buckingham Palace or Big Ben; the jersey-clad, high-fiving, NFL fan. You’d also have seen many thousands of British and European American football converts too, in a technicolour array of team jerseys
This was no Fourth of July or Thanksgiving celebration, but the Miami Dolphins playing the New Orleans Saints in the latest edition of the National Football League’s (American football’s Premier League, if you will) ‘International Series’. Held at Twickenham, it was the third NFL game in London this year, with a fourth on the way in November. All have sold out venues with more than 80,000 seats.
The NFL has placed steadily increasing capital in our capital since launching the International Series in 2007. There was one NFL game a year in London for its first six seasons, two in 2013, three annually from 2014-2016, and will be four during 2017. The NFL remains keen to have a franchise in the city permanently. Bar two games held in Mexico City over the last few years, the ‘International’ Series, might as well be rebranded the ‘London Series’.
In short, NFL franchise owners view London as the major growth market for the sport – a relevant, global city, from which it can reach the European consumer market. At a time when Brexit fears are leading many to consider alternate European bases, continued investment from the NFL is a sign that America (even if purely from a leisure perspective) still sees London as the gateway to Europe. Not only that, but also a launch pad to rolling out a brand on a truly global scale – perhaps evidence of the powerful influence of a shared language, and deep cultural connections.
With London pleading its case to international real estate investors in uncertain times, the NFL’s support for the city as a global base is a timely reminder that the capital is still seen as a major and relevant player on the world stage by many.