Thursday, September 26, 2013

The London Experiment

By: Aaron Coleman

Let’s face it, it is probably fair to say that most American NFL fans are not huge on NFL games being played in London during the regular season. Fans are probably not too keen to see their squads potentially lose a home game just so our mates across the pond can watch the Steelers and Vikings play live in a “soccer” stadium. Personally, I would honestly not be too excited for Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, and the rest of my Washington Redskins squad to have to take a 10+ hour flight to go play in front of an unfamiliar “home” crowd.

However, if you look deeper into the numbers, the NFL’s annual game at Wembley Stadium is annually a huge success. According to the league, both of this year’s international games (the aforementioned Steelers-Vikings match up that takes place this Sunday as well as the Jaguars/ 49ers game in October) sold out in two weeks, virtually ensuring a Wembley Stadium with all 84,500 seats filled.

A common retort when numbers like these are brought up is that the games are mostly attended by American fans of both squads that have decided to treat the game as a vacation of sorts. However, the NFL has presented data that shows that only 3% of fans that attend the game are actually American. In fact, 22% hail from London while a whopping 60% come from elsewhere in Britain. It is no secret that the NFL hopes to grow a strong fan base in England like the NBA’s in China so these numbers have to make the higher-ups very happy. According to a USA Today interview with Minnesota Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley, research shows that UK fan development has more than double since 2007 with over 11.3 million people across the pond claiming NFL fandom. Now, while the idea of an NFL franchise playing permanently in London (*cough* Jaguars * cough *) may be at least a few more years off according to NFL senior vice president of international Chris Parson in a USA Today interview, the senior official did say that “We'd like to continue to grow our fan base even more aggressively”

So this Sunday, while the Steelers and Viking both battle for their first victory of the season in Wembley, take pride in watching this great sport grow even bigger in front of your very eyes…unless you are a Jaguars fan.

Aaron J. Coleman is currently a finance major at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA minoring in Communication (with a focus in Public Relations). He was born and raised in Upper Marlboro, MD, a suburb outside of Washington, DC. He is currently a supervisor for Drexel’s Intramural Sports program. He covers the Chicago Bulls, New York Yankees, and Washington Redskins (his favorite squads along with the Washington Capitals and Drexel Dragons) for Follow Aaron on Twitter @shutupCole.



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