The journey to Super Bowl LVIII has officially started with four game weeks now completed at the time of writing. Taking place at the Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders in Paradise, Nevada, the 58th edition of the biggest game in football is set to kick off on February 11th, 2024.
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The Super Bowl is frequently the most watched television-broadcast in America every single year, consistently attracting over 100m viewers. But how does this translate in Europe? For decades, the NFL was essentially only played and viewed in North America. It was not until the 90s that we started seeing European interest in the sport, beginning with the World League of American Football.
This was the NFL’s first effort to expand the game into Europe and was originally set to be a Spring developmental league for the NFL. Three teams from Europe (the London Monarchs, Barcelona Dragons and Frankfurt Galaxy) competed with six American teams and one Canadian. Although spectator numbers were very strong, the league only lasted a couple of seasons before being suspended and eventually replaced by NFL Europe in 1995. This lasted for 12 years and again boasted strong spectatorship, especially in Germany. However, viewing figures were low and it was not financially sustainable, so the NFL decided to head into a different direction with their expansion.
It was in 2007 that we saw the first International Series commissioned by the league. This was the first time in the history of the league that a competitive game was played outside of North America with the destination being Wembley Stadium in London. They then split games between Wembley and Twickenham Stadium before finding a permanent home at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which doubles as an NFL Standard football field underneath their soccer surface. Last year we saw the first competitive game held in Germany at the Allianz arena and the popularity the game is experiencing in Europe is at an all-time high with tickets for these games selling out in record time.
As such, the popularity of the Super Bowl in Europe has reached a fever pitch. The BBC, the biggest state broadcasting company in the UK, holds live coverage of the game as well as Sky, the biggest cable provider. In 2021 a record 4 million viewers in the UK tuned in to watch the game live despite the time difference (the game didn’t kick off until gone-midnight GMT).
The work that commissioner Roger Goodell has put in to expand the game in Europe cannot go unrecognized and the international series has worked wonders in increasing the popularity of the Super Bowl. More exposure can only be a good thing for the league. Aside from increasing the popularity of the sport, allowing for a more secure future, it also means we could see more sponsorship opportunities for teams and players. With the games only just beginning in Germany and another successful UK series behind them, we are likely to see further expansion in Europe.
In fact, Goodell has not ruled out the chances of the Super Bowl being held abroad, though has admitted it would be difficult when talking to the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football Weekend.
The creation of a London based franchise has long been rumoured, though it is likely that an existing franchise would have to relocate rather than entering a 33rd team in the league.
In the more immediate future, the gameplan seems to be more of the same in Europe for the NFL. They have plans to host no fewer than four games in Germany through 2025 with two being played there this year. A report emerged that there were talks to hold another game at Camp Nou, one of the biggest soccer stadiums in the world and home to Barcelona CF.
As the biggest game in the sport, the Super Bowl’s popularity has caught on big time in Europe and seems to still be on an upward trajectory. Even more exciting is that it seems the best is yet to come and as we continue to see global expansion from the league the state of the NFL is extremely strong not just in Europe but all over the world.