The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 on Sunday at the Allianz Arena in Munich – the first NFL game held in Germany – and there have been regular-season games played in London since 2007, including three this year (at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Wembley)
By Associated Press
Last Updated: 15/11/22 1:46pm
The NFL wants to keep its European tour going now that Germany has joined the UK in hosting games, with Spain and France atop the league’s wish list as it continues to look to grow internationally.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 on Sunday at the Allianz Arena in Munich – the first NFL game held in Germany, as part of a four-year deal the league hopes will be extended long term. London, meanwhile, has hosted regular-season games since 2007, including three in 2022 (two at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and one at Wembley).
Such was the vast interest in Sunday’s first game in Germany, the league claimed it received three-million ticket requests after an instant sell-out earlier this year.
Beyond Germany, which could also get additional games soon, the league’s analysis of fan growth and commercial potential puts Spain and France “very much on our radar”, Brett Gosper, the NFL’s head of UK and Europe, told The Associated Press.
“We need to do our homework to make sure that there is the possibility of a place to land any games in those markets, gauge interest of the host stadia, gauge interest of the host city, even the government, as to their enthusiasm to help us bring a game,” Gosper said.
Spain has a slight edge because the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins now have ‘home marketing’ rights in the country. The NFL has divvied up international rights to interested teams covering 10 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Mexico and the UK. No teams currently have rights in France.
“When you know that there are teams operating in [the international rights programme] you want to look at the prospect and the viability of potentially having games in those markets at some point,” Gosper said.
There are five International Series games this season, the last of which will be held in Mexico City on Monday, when the Arizona Cardinals face the San Francisco 49ers.
International expansion was one reason why the NFL added a 17th game to teams’ schedules. The league has committed to playing at least four international games each season, and teams are required to play a ‘home’ game abroad once every eight seasons.
Outside of that commitment, a team with rights in a country can opt to play home games there, as the Jacksonville Jaguars do in London. The Jags have played nine times there and currently have a three-year deal to play an annual ‘home’ game at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium.
“A team might choose to do that. That’s a real possibility but again not imminent,” Gosper said.
“Certainly, in the next six months to 12 months, we’ll be really testing the viability of our options from a stadium point of view – not just in Europe but elsewhere – and then, at the same time, seeing what the appetite is for clubs to potentially exploit those markets with a game,” he said.
In Spain, Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is undergoing major renovations that will include a grass pitch that retracts to make way for an artificial turf field that can be used for American Football, the capacity being over 80,000. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to host London games, has a similar system.
There is also the Nou Camp, Europe’s largest football stadium with a capacity of 99,000, but Barcelona plan to begin a long-delayed renovation project that will last into 2026. The city does also have Montjuic Olympic Stadium, which seats about 56,000 and was a former home to the Barcelona Dragons in the now defunct NFL Europe league which ran from 1991 until 2007.
Gosper said there are “a lot of synergies” with Spain considering the NFL’s large Spanish-speaking fanbase. Nine teams have marketing rights in Mexico.
“France is a little bit outside of that and it is its own market and culture,” Gosper said. “But at the same time it’s an incredibly strong sports media market where returns could be higher and faster than Spain.
“They’re two very healthy media markets, healthy sports markets, with some strong indicators from our streaming platform as well as from our consumer sales,” he continued. “When you mine the data a little bit, they certainly are two markets with high potential.”
Elsewhere in Europe, the Nordic markets would be next and “Sweden in particular” according to Gosper. The country’s largest stadium, Friends Arena, tops out at 50,000 fans.