International Series makes waves across the pond

There’s a mighty big difference between what the word “football” means in
the US and what it means in Europe. Despite the divide, the NFL is
starting to get more and more popular with the folks across the pond.

The NFL has long been trying to get a foothold in the European market. In
1995, an offseason league called NFL Europe was established in Germany.
The developmental league was both an initial experimental expansion into
the global market as well as a way for NFL players to get recognized
overseas. NFL Europe also served as a testing ground for new rules before
their implementation in the NFL.

Unfortunately, the grand experiment lasted just barely over a decade
before it folded. It seems the league did successfully do one job, though,
which was to bring awareness to American football and build a strong
foundation for future excursions into the European market.

When the league sent a pair of NFL teams to London as part of the International
in September, over half a million fans came out for the
accompanying pre-game block party. The Steelers-Vikings game itself
managed to draw over 80,000 fans to Wembley Stadium. Wembley has played
host to the NFL’s regular season games since 2007.

“In the time since Wembley began hosting NFL games, Sky have also noted a
marked increase in interest in the sport,” wrote’s
Mike O’Donnell in a piece from 2012. “Television ratings for NFL Sundays
have risen by 154% while the Super Bowl has seen a 74% rise in viewers
since 2006.”

The NFL has also managed to capture the hearts of Europe’s betting public.
Numerous betting companies both online and land-based accept bets on
everything from regular season games to the Super Bowl.

“As sport and gambling are fairly synonymous, it’s only natural that the
amount of interest in betting on NFL games is likely to have increased
accordingly,” O’Donnell added. “Whether the increase is in proportion to
the overall popularity remains to be seen but Betfair reveal that on average they
saw £530,000 matched on NFL games last season.”

The NFL’s popularity in Europe has even led to talks of London eventually
hosting its own NFL team (pundits believe the Jaguars
are the most likely team to make the move). While that may still be a ways
further into the future, football fans in Europe do have something to look
forward to: another three regular season games to be played in Wembley
Stadium next year.