The NFL’s Growing Global Popularity
By Space Coast Daily // September 15, 2022
A new NFL season is getting underway, and if the preseason is anything to go by, fans of both Florida teams could be in for some surprises. Tampa Bay fell short in all three preseason games, and the fact that these included a narrow loss to Florida rivals Miami adds an extra pinch of spice for the weeks ahead.
However, it is not just Floridians who will be watching the regular season unfold. The NFL might represent “America’s game” at its highest level but it has a footprint that is becoming truly global in nature. The Super Bowl is now one of the most-watched sporting events on the planet, and the Bucs, the Dolphins and the rest of the NFL teams have fans that are spread further from their home cities than you might think.
It’s easy to put the NFL’s global rise down to social media, mobile streaming and other such 21st century technological wonders. But in fact, Europeans, and especially the British, German and Spanish, have been following the NFL since the 1980s, when minor but free to air TV networks such as the UK’s Channel 4 started broadcasting weekly highlight shows.
Football’s popularity was cemented with the World League, which featured such teams as the London Monarchs, Barcelona Dragons and Frankfurt Galaxy. But it was always the NFL that really captured imaginations, and believe it or not, the League has been travelling to London for one or more road games for 15 years now. This year, there will be three NFL games staged in London and it is surely only a matter of time before the NFL adds more European venues to the list.
There is even talk of London one day having its own franchise. It won’t be this year or next, but given the game’s popularity, it’s certainly a strong possibility for the future.
At first glance, you might think that soccer holds sway in Asia. Certainly in countries like Thailand with a large European expat population, it’s soccer that’s thriving at grass roots level and fans flock to the likes of 188BET to place wagers on local and international tournaments.
However, in China and Japan, the NFL is attracting rapidly growing audiences who are happy to sit up into the small hours to see their favorite teams in action. Given the size of these markets, they are ones that the NFL can scarce afford to ignore.
As is the case in Europe and Asia, soccer is the most popular sport in Africa. However, it is interesting to note that it is the English Premier League, Bundesliga and so on that fans really love watching.
Now, as NFL coverage reaches more and more of Africa’s 1.5 billion inhabitants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins are starting to attract followings in the same way as Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Don’t be surprised if the NFL starts considering fixtures in Johannesburg or Nairobi sooner rather than later.