UKFL By the Numbers: Is American Football popular in the UK?

We have had some amazing support early on in our journey and we are thankful and excited for it all. However, there are also people who question the league and we take their input on board too. We have been asked one question that we have a very simple answer to and we thought we should share that answer in a blog post.

This post will be a little bit different to what we have put out before, but we are going to answer this question by looking at the stats and numbers that are out there and try to provide the background information that has informed us. So, let’s go.

The question, or some variation of it: ‘Is American Football popular in the UK?’

The answer: Yeah, more than you think.  

In other words: ‘Is there a market for the UKFL?’

Yes, we are confident there is.

American Football is a rapidly growing sport and the appreciation for, fandom of and engagement in the UK has been exploding over the last decade. The talk of a UK NFL franchise in recent years says all that we need to know. There is an infinite potential for growth of the sport and – as we explained in our first ever blog post – that growth is our number one priority at UKFL.

We love this sport and we know that there are a huge number of people in this country who do too.

In 2019, Vincent Bonsignore, of The Athletic, wrote about how London is ‘ready for an NFL team’ in response to rumours that the Chargers could potentially move to London.

Bonsignore summed up the NFL’s overseas success with a very impressive stat: of the 28 NFL London games since 2007, 25 of them have had an attendance of at least 83,000.

(And, by the way, all three of the games that failed to do so were held in a stadium with a capacity below that number.)

For context, according to Statista, less than 29,000 people participated in American Football in England in 2016. That means three times as many people attend a single NFL London game than apparently actually play the sport. And that statistic doesn’t account for all of those who unfortunately can’t get tickets.

Hot Tickets

One of the most remarkable statistics I found when researching this article is about those unfortunate people. The NFL confirmed that the Tottenham games in 2019 were 12 times oversubscribed and sold out in 45 minutes.

Twelve times oversubscribed. That means somewhere in the region of 750,000 fans were unsuccessful in their effort to buy tickets. These numbers are as good an indication of the interest in the sport as they are crazy stats.

According to the NFL’s official research, they now have more than 13 million fans in the UK, and around 4 million of them are ‘avid’ fans.

Think about these ratios – almost a third of the people who are NFL fans are ‘avid’ fans, and around a quarter of these avid fans try and get tickets to each game that is played in London. While the sport still seems niche in this country, the people who care about it really care.

So, we already know there are millions of people right here in the UK who enjoy American Football – and hundreds of thousands who actually want to go and see the game played at the highest level in person.

Those numbers aren’t going anywhere, either. There’s no reason for this growth to slow down. Young people are getting into the sport, too, and that is perfectly epitomised by the launch of the NFL Academy.

Just a fraction of these NFL fans follow British American Football in its current form, but we believe that this number will go up as the sport continues to grow, and we plan on providing a middle ground between Britball and the NFL London games.

While the majority of NFL fans in this country don’t follow the British national leagues, there is clear evidence that they want to see the sport played here at a professional level, in high-quality stadiums.

By the Numbers

Richard Balchin is an avid British NFL fan with a keen interest in the business side of sports, having recently graduated from UCFB with a Masters in International Sports Management. As part of his degree, his thesis investigated whether or not “the Fandom of the NFL in the UK is strong enough to sustain a franchise?” 

If you’d like to save some reading time, the answer is yes!

725 people responded to his questionnaire, and the vast majority of them felt they had an extremely high level of interest in the NFL (78% rated themselves 5/5 and 19% rated them 4/5). These people were asked about the prospect of a potential UK-based NFL franchise and 66% of them said they would like for it to happen.

33% even said that they would be willing to buy a season ticket for tickets to all 8 of their home games. When asked about attending these games, season ticket or not, 47% said that they would attend 1 or 2 games a season and 37% stated that they would attend at least 4 games.

A few people who said that they would like to see a team in the UK but wouldn’t actually attend, further explained that the only reason for that was because they live really far away from London. 

Looking at Richard’s research, it seems pretty clear that people who are big NFL fans are very much interested in going to see games in person, more than is currently possible for Brits. While London is spoiled compared to every other country outside of the States, it is clear that there is a hunger for more.

If we applied the numbers from Richard’s research to the 4 million avid NFL fans, that would still project to over 1 million fans who would be willing to buy a season ticket.

The market for this sport is here – and growing.

There are millions and millions of NFL fans who eagerly await the start of every new season, and even more eagerly they count down the days until the London games. Unfortunately, not enough of those fans engage with the sport on our own soil with BAFA and BUCS, where it is almost exclusively followed by players, coaches and ex-players.

The UKFL aims to provide a league that sits between Britball and the NFL for British American Football fans to enjoy. A professional league that takes place during the NFL offseason, with a high quality on and off-field experience for both players and fans.

If just a fraction of 1% of the people who watched the NFL in the UK across a year decided that they wanted to watch some professional American Football in this country during the offseason, we’d run out of tickets to sell.

We know there are people who love the NFL in this country. We looked at all of the numbers… Now, it’s time to provide the best possible product and convert those die-hard NFL fans into die-hard American Football fans and give them something to cheer for in the summer.