Opinion: NFL Draft in the UK you say?

The anxious wait for this years NFL draft was one of the most anticipated in recent history.

But what does the future hold for the NFL draft going forward? It’s not completely out of the question that it could be held in an international venue. With growing popularity here in the United Kingdom, it would make sense on many levels to hold it in my home city of London.

This is why I decided to dig through the archives and give you the facts of the growth of American Football in the UK.

Going back eleven years to 2007 when games started being hosted at the new Wembley Stadium in London, only one game took place that year, N.Y. Giants versus the Miami Dolphins, and one game a year until 2013. Attendance figures were just over 81,000 in 2007.

In 2016, the games hosted abroad would become known as the NFL International series. Some games took place in Mexico but my main focus is in the UK.

Here’s a list of all the years, number of games, venues and attendance figures:

2007 – 1 game (NYG vs Dolphins) – Wembley – (81,176)

2008 – 1 game (Chargers vs Saints – Wembley – (83,226)

2009 – 1 game (Patriots vs Tampa) – Wembley – (84,254)

2010 – 1 game (Broncos vs 49ers) – Wembley – (83,941)

2011 – 1 game (Bears vs Tampa) – Wembley – (76,981)

2012 – 1 game (Patriots vs Rams) – Wembley – (84,004)

2013 – 2 games (Steelers vs Vikings & 49ers vs Jaguars) – Wembley – (83,518, 83,559)

2014 – 3 games (Dolphins vs Raiders, Lions vs Falcons & Cowboys vs Jaguars) – Wembley – (83,436, 83,532, 83,603)

2015 – 3 games (NYJ vs Dolphins, Bills vs Jaguars & Lions vs Chiefs) – Wembley – (83,986, 84,021, 83,624)

2016 – 3 games (Colts vs Jaguars, NYG vs Rams & Redskins vs Bengals) – Wembley, Twickenham, Wembley – (83,798, 74,121, 84,448)

2017 – 4 games (Ravens vs Jaguars, Saints vs Dolphins, Cardinals vs Rams & Vikings vs Browns) – Wembley, Wembley, Twickenham, Twickenham – (84,592, 84,423, 73,736, 74,237)

As you can see from the information above, the steady rise in popularity of NFL in the UK only dipped once in 2011. From 2014 onwards when more games were scheduled than previous years, attendance remained high around the 83,000+ mark.

Also worth noting, UK viewers can watch games and coverage through NFL Game Pass, the same way people do in America. The NFL claimed around 24 million unique UK broadcast viewers tuned in last season.

So what would happen if the NFL draft was taking place in the UK?

First and foremost, before considering holding the event in London, time difference needs to be taken into account. 8 P.M. New York time, for example, is 1 A.M. in London, so for viewing figures to remain high, a suitable time slot for both the UK and America would have to be negotiated.

Also, take into account that the draft, in general, is spread over three days, meaning a lot of organization and funding would have to be put in place to make it even a remote possibility; things like flights, accommodations, and sponsorship spring to mind.

But if the draft was held here in the UK, I have no doubt attendance, sales, and viewing figures would soar after an up-close look at how this enormous event takes center stage wherever it’s based. It would only be another step in the NFL’s mission to make the sport a global attraction.

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