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Interest in American football and the NFL continues to grow in the UK

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The NFL has a long and storied history since it was founded in the USA in 1920. Having gone through numerous changes, mergers, and moves over the years, the modern era of the game that emerged after the first Super Bowl in 1967 is what people around the world have really come to enjoy.

Sadly, American football and the NFL always struggled to gain much traction in the UK, with the attempts to create local teams largely failing since the early 80s, and a relocation of an official NFL team yet to occur despite years of speculation.

But this is changing, and changing quickly. With NFL games in London selling out in minutes, the British American Football Association creating a UK wide league, and the popularity of betting on NFL games skyrocketing over the past decade, it’s clear American football is on the rise in Britain –but where did it all start?

The London Games

October 28th, 2007 marked the first NFL foray into a having a regular season NFL game outside of the US. With a sell out crowd at Wembley and the majority of tickets being sold in the first hours it’s fair to say it was a success that introduced an entirely new fanbase to the sport and began the massive rise in popularity for the NFL, and the sport as a whole.

The London Games have gone on to become a yearly occurrence through long-term deals between the NFL and Tottenham Hotspur FC to host games abroad, as well as several games at Wembley and Twickenham. Of course, this is excellent for the growth of the NFL internationally, but there has been another upward trend with the sport over the past decade that gives even more insight into how Brits have embraced the NFL – sports betting.


Is NFL betting the new football betting?

No, betting on the NFL is not ready to eclipse football betting, but punters have shown a major shift in their desire to wager on the American sport, bringing it to the forefront of sports betting sites and to the top of many bet slips. There has even been a massive change in attitude from many of the top NFL betting sites – with an increased focus on showcasing the sport for British sharps looking to wager on the other kind of football, especially during the Super Bowl.

The 2021 Super Bowl showed just how much growth in NFL betting there has been, with a fifth of gamblers wagering on the championship game. Alongside this, UK betting on the NFL has increased around 40% each year according to a William Hill spokesperson, which is an absolutely staggering rise.

Not only have NFL games been extended to continue in the UK through 2025 already, the more popular the sport gets and with more ways than ever to watch the NFL in the UK, talks about a London based NFL team keep getting brought up, and it’s only a matter of time before fans see a team call a UK city home.

UK American football leagues are growing

The explosion of sports betting on the NFL is of course a very clear demonstration of how much popularity of American football has grown over the past few years in the UK, but the rise of American football in the UK goes well beyond this. The failing leagues trying to emulate the NFL made a huge turnaround in 2010, to now host a fully functioning British American Football league across the entire United Kingdom, setting the stage for homegrown support all over the UK instead of just for the NFL.

Initially founded in the mid 1980s, the British American Football League as it was originally called has gone through some major turmoil, but following the effort to bring NFL games to the UK, it has fully rebranded and refocused with far more support and a wide player base all over the country.


Rebranded for their 2011 season, the British American Football Association National League now hosts upwards of 70 teams across three distinct divisions. The Premier Division features teams including the London Warriors, Edinburgh Wolves, and Manchester Titans – who have all seen success as part of this league, and even sent players to the NFL.

Efe Obada was the first player to go from a European football league, where he played for the London Warriors, to the NFL, and was even named honorary captain when he played with the Carolina Panthers in the 2019 London Game. British natives like Jermaine and Marvin Allen enjoyed brief careers in the NFL, as well as Aden Durde who is currently one of the coaches for the Dallas Cowboys.

Seeing a player like Graham Gano become one of the greatest NFL kickers, with a tied record for the third longest field goal, has certainly given hope to seeing another UK native make a name for themselves in the NFL. But even with high hopes for players like Jamie Gillan – the Scottish Hammer – the Arbroath native is really the only recognized player to hail from the UK for now.

Is the NFL still just the ‘other kind of football’?

There is still a steep hill to climb for the NFL the take over from the likes of the Premier League as the UK’s favorite league, and realistically this won’t happen.

But the growth in popularity of American football since the NFL has started playing games in London has been astronomical, and it will only keep growing as more games are played all over the UK, and with the possibility of a British team joining the NFL still there.

It’s clear that punters and fans alike love the sport, and there is absolutely a place for American football between rugby and football – so why not embrace the change and carve out some time to enjoy the other kind of football this season.

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