[Note by JasonB, 05/13/11 7:24 PM EDT ] Promoted from fanshots. A great perspective from Brawnybalboa here about an effect of the lockout we probably haven't considered.
American Football is undoubtedly not only America's game, but one of the most recognisable sports in the world. Visit any area of the globe and ask a local what word they associate with Touchdown, they will say football. Ask what they associate with shoulder pads & a helmet, they will say football. Show them a football with the signature stitching, they will recognise it.
Could you do this with Basketball? Baseball? Hockey? As a UK citizen, I can tell you for definite that you cannot!
So what am I hitting on? From being a little understood sport followed by an elite of die hard fans, the popularity of football among casual fans is growing rapidly, most of our top Universities now sport teams, there are teams popping up all over the nation. It is watched in Monday Night Football on 5ive, Sunday Night Football on Channel 4, Sunday Games on Sky Sports 1, College Football on ESPN America, re-runs on ESPN Classic and of course the Superbowl being the first UK Isolated sport broadcast by the BBC. A lot of the national sports stores are stocking NFL Jerseys and Replica Footballs. Madden 2011 sold out in many stores on opening day. The UK may have said no to the failed Europa League, but is falling in love with the NFL.
Even Roger Goodell recognises this:
"Our past four games in London have demonstrated the tremendous passion for NFL football that exists in the UK."
That is very true. In fact for the inaugural International Series game at Wembley, no less that 400000 tickets were applied for. With application numbers rising each year. Football is officially cool, and increasingly accessible. Since then we have had 3 more games in London. They haven't been the greatest games, but that being said we are thrilled to have the NFL in the UK!
More After the JumpDuring the 2010 visit of the 49ers & Broncos to Wembley, Roger Goodell clearly stated his vision for NFL expansion into Europe:
"We hope by staging another extraordinary game at Wembley that we can continue to grow our existing fan base and attract even more new fans.I think the next step will be multiple games, and if that's successful then I think the idea of a franchise here is realistic."
To a British fan that is music to my ears. Although the dream of a franchise is not likely to become true any time soon, having the NFL's best grace the hallowed Wembley turf twice a year gets the excitement rising. Goodell has even spoke previously about the possibility of London Hosting a Superbowl:
"We have had very substantive conversations with the city of London. We've got to the point of exploring the bid document. We've spoken on what it would take to host and for us to bring it over. The city has all the facilities needed, and in great quantity"
Anybody in the UK would trade a meaningless International Series game to host the Superbowl! It would be a totally new experience for both parties. Although this is not likely soon, it is definitely possible before the end of the decade!
But then there was the lock-out, shortly followed by this breaking news on the BBC website:
"The NFL owners imposed a "lockout" on 12 March after the collective bargaining agreement with the players expired, and talks over pay and other conditions failed to produce a renegotiated agreement.
There is a danger that the dispute could force the cancellation of the 2011 season, and an NFL statement said that if it is not resolved by 1 August, the Wembley game will instead be played at the Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium."
We suddenly see the NFL possibly not returning this year, which would not be popular to say the least. For the casual UK fan this is a blow. But how about if there is not a 2011 season? The casual UK fans will go back to following Rugby, or the EPL the worlds top soccer league. We could see the NFL's UK following returning to being die-hard fans watching games until 4am in the morning, which would reverse 6 years of progress.
Not only is Roger Goodells dream of an 18 Game regular season ready to go down the drain, but also any short term hope of breaking into the UK Market.