Examining the rise in popularity of American Football in the UK

July 13, 2014 6:30 pm

In the past few years, the popularity of American Football in the UK has risen significantly. Whilst still seen as a fringe sport in comparison to Football, Rugby and Cricket, the once niche audience has grown into a fully-fledging horde of fans. Social media, increased coverage in the UK, as well as the International Series games held at Wembley Stadium, and the Super Bowl have all contributed to this upward trend in popularity.

Super Bowl

Known as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of the American Football calendar. Legends are made, heroes become villains, and new ring-bearers emerge. Shown late at night in the UK, for many years the Super Bowl went by unnoticed by many of the UK public, watched only by a select few of insomniacs and shift-workers. However, the penchant for ‘Super Bowl Parties’ has led to increased viewing figures. These parties appeal to a wide range of people, including those who may not have shown any prior interest in the sport. A social setting, food, potentially alcohol, a great game of football and the hotly anticipated half-time adverts lead to an enjoyable experience for everyone involved, regardless of whether they’ve ever watched a game of American Football.

Social Media

Vines have become incredibly popular in the past year, and many feature American Football highlights set to popular chart songs. As vines rarely surpass the 6-second mark, it is a bite sized portion of American Football that is easy to digest. Often, they feature a high-impact tackle or an extravagant pass/catch, thus increasing the chances of a viewer considering watching more of the sport. As well as Vines, events such as Richard Sherman’s post-game interview after the NFC Championship Playoff game in the 2013/14 season rapidly went viral. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook have greatly helped the sport gain an international audience.

Sky Sports & Channel 4

During the regular season, Sky shows two games every Sunday evening as well as showing Thursday Night Football. Furthermore, during each of these games, it also has the fan favourite ‘Redzone Updates’ for every game during the allotted time slot, allowing viewers to keep up to date with every game. As the coverage on Sundays begins at 6pm and finishes around midnight, it garners a good level of channel-hopping traffic. Holding a primetime spot on the tv schedule has also allowed for more potential fans to get into the sport for the same reason. As well as the coverage shown on Sky Sports, Channel 4 also run a weekly show dedicated to NFL coverage during the regular season, allowing members of the public who do not have Sky to keep up to date with the scores and general goings-on in the NFL.

american football uk


Wembley Stadium, arguably the most iconic stadium in the UK, has hosted at least one NFL game per season since 2007 as part of the NFL’s International Series. The games are immensely popular with UK fans and tickets sell fast, thus leading to the introduction of NFL International Series season tickets, granting the customer with access to all three of the games held in the UK this season. As well as the International Series, tentative talks of a London franchise joining the NFL have also caused interest in the sport to increase. As it stands, the team rumoured to be most likely to relocate to London would be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have committed to playing at least one game per season in London until 2016. If a London franchise does join the NFL, it will be indicative of the high levels of popularity of American Football in the UK.

The 2014/15 NFL season kicks off with the Green Bay Packers visiting the current Super Bowl Champions the Seattle Seahawks on Friday September 5th at 1am (Thursday September 4th at 8:30pm EDT in the United States).

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