On October 28, 2007, the first regular season NFL game was played in London. Since then, the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) have seen a growing European following after establishing the international series for both sports with additional games added each year. With the NFL making its London debut in 2007 and the NBA in 2011, the growing European fan bases for both sports have created a high demand for tickets. The Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia ‘76ers game in January was so popular that tickets sold out in 7 minutes.
The NFL and NBA has had an effect on students lives as Jess Woodhams (’20) feels that it allows more exposure for Europe to American sports. As she competes in softball at an international level for the U16 Great Britain team, she feels that there is more competition and that people are exposed to the different customs of both American and British sports.
Similarly, John Castello (’18) thinks that the NFL “is very localized” and that “expanding overseas is definitely helping get more fans [in London]”. He feels that the culture of American football has helped more people to get involved, especially in the club American football team that he plays on in London. He feels that the NFL is attempting to “connect two cultures” in that children who have not been able to see teams in the U.S. can get involved in the sport.
However, Woodhams feels like the teams are repetitive as the Jacksonville Jaguars seem to come every year, and as a result, she isn’t able to watch her favorite team, the New England Patriots. There are a multitude of teams that come to London to play and to build a fanbase. She appreciates the amount of teams and the ability for the NFL to have a base in London. “It is good because American teams can come over and play in Europe and they would have strong competition,” said Woodhams. She feels that it is good exposure to sports.
Since 2007, the NFL has had 21 games in London, with an increase of games brought to Europe in the last 4 seasons because of popularity, and the fact that London is a growing base for fans. This exposure to the NFL originally led to hope for an expansion team based in England, and as there is such a buildup of excitement leading up to the games, a team abroad would surely be well received as there has been a great reaction by fans to the London Series. The NFL is pushing to hopefully either relocate an existing team or create an expansion team in London by 2022.
Student-athletes at ASL appreciate that because of the London Series, they are able to watch their favorite sport played at a professional level without traveling across the ocean, and this can help improve their own games. As Castello follows the New York Giants and went to see them play at Twickenham Stadium in 2016, he feels that “it brings a more passionate crowd and it is a much more enjoyable experience and you are a lot more invested in the game,” when your team is in London.
Woodhams on the other hand feels that she can support the Patriots from London, but since they have not played here since 2012, it is difficult to watch games. The hosting team gives up an opportunity to play on their home turf but instead plays a home game in London, playing their “home game”, and some teams aren’t willing to travel to Europe to do that.
For the NBA, Castello thinks that basketball is a more international sport as more players from Europe and the world are present in the league. Games in London are “helping people pay more attention to basketball in Europe.”
Natalie Vann (’20) believes that playing basketball and watching the NBA in Europe is “another facet for communication and connection” with other fans following American sports abroad. As a result, exposure to American football and basketball has brought upon popularity of flag football which hadn’t been as popular overseas previously. This allows different sports to be played throughout England as well as Europe, expanding the number of sports available. Vann said, “As time has increased, [American] sports have gained way more popularity and there has been way more involvement in the London community.”