The Case For The London Game
- Believe it or not, there are NFL fans outside of the lower 48.
I personally wasn’t much of a fan of Sam Mellinger’s emotional rant on the London game, but one of his lines stuck out as especially clueless: “In any case, Hunt should’ve been the one answering questions about why a home game […] is being exported to a place where they cheer every kickoff like a touchdown.”
Aug 23, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs fans hold a sign against the Minnesota Vikings in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Minnesota won the game 30-12. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Although I haven’t seen any polling data on it (and would love to), it is a fact that football is gaining in popularity in Europe now similar to the way soccer is gaining traction exponentially in the States of late. Although I have never lived in the UK, I’ve been living in Europe for six of the last seven years – in places far more removed from American influence: Russia, the Republic of Georgia and Turkey – and I can tell you anectdotally that there is definitely growing demand for NFL on the continent.
Roughly half of my Turkish friends played football in college, and nearly every Brit I’ve met who watches some sort of sports has seen and enjoys the NFL. I keep hearing from my French, German and Polish friends how their younger siblings are playing in youth American football leagues.
Just last month, I was back in Tbilisi, Georgia chatting up the Chiefs’ possible playoff permutations with a Catalonian friend, and we were later joined by an old Swedish buddy of his who had just popped in the country and is a lifelong Broncos fan. We, of course, cordially talked smack on each others’ team for the rest of the night over Natakhtari beers.
While the announcement of the London game set fire to Twitter with anger from Chiefs fans in the Kansas/Missouri area, it was met with jubilation from tons of European Chiefs fans. I honestly don’t know just how many Chiefs fans there are living in the Europe, but I’ve met several myself and Arrowheads Abroad on Twitter has 1,630 followers.
Wembley Stadium regularly sells out its up-to 90,000 capacity for NFL games and I checked on tickets for this year’s games there. The cheapest I could find still weeks ahead of the match were 165 British pounds – more than $260.
There is a real fanbase here that deserves to be served, and preferably something other than regular portions of Jaguars. Which leads me to ….