Germany overtakes the UK as Europe’s leading market for NFL

MUNICH (AP) – Seattle Seahawks fan Lukas Spiess was shocked by what he noticed during a soccer match in Stuttgart a few weeks ago.

“This old man played fantastic football a few rows in front of me on his phone,” said Spiess, president of the German Sea Hawkers fan club. “This is not what I would have expected.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the Seahawks at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday in the first-ever NFL game of the regular season in Germany. Over the next three seasons, Munich will host another, and Frankfurt will host two.

More broadly, Germany surpassed Great Britain as the largest NFL market in Europe.

“Game Pass has more subscribers, consumer products sell more in Germany than in the UK, Madden video games sell more, TV rights are comparable,” Brett Gosper, head of the NFL UK and Europe, told the Associated Press.

The UK and Germany each have 3.3 million “die-hard” NFL fans in a category that is growing rapidly for both, but Germany has slightly more “ordinary” fans – 17 million, Gosper said. London has been hosting the season’s regular matches since 2007.

Germany has overtaken the UK in the last 12 months, Gosper said at a recent sports marketing conference in Düsseldorf.

With Europe’s largest economy, Germany was a matter of course to the NFL, and the country has supported American football in the past. NFL Europe ultimately lost, but in the final season of 2007, five of the six teams were German. Frankfurt Galaxy and Rhein Fire in particular attracted good crowds.

Interest really grew after 2015, when games became easily accessible to viewers on the well-known, open-access channel.

“I can feel it is accelerating exponentially,” said Spiess, a 31-year-old software engineer. “Thanks to the help of social media, there is all the hype around this. Being an American football fan is fun right now. “

Gosper admitted that the NFL was “probably a little late” arriving in Germany and said adding game 17 to the schedule was crucial.

“Having this (an extra match) allowed us to move to Germany, but it was probably a market that was ready to meet the NFL here much earlier,” said Gosper at the SPOBIS conference in late September.

Alexander Steinforth, NFL general manager for Germany, admitted that it is “very helpful” that seven-time Super Bowl playmaker Tom Brady is the headline of the league’s debut game in Germany.

But he said interest in the league trumps any star.

“The excitement is so great that almost any team could play in Germany and people would like to play,” said Steinforth.

The online queue when tickets went on sale in July reached 770,000, although it is unclear whether some of them were bots or whether that number of people were using the devices. In any case, the demand was more than double that of the London games, which tend to sell out quickly.

“I tried on three different devices,” said Spiess, who attacked but then landed a ticket through a friend in Seattle. “Lots of people are still desperate to find a few remaining tickets.”

Many German fans come to Munich even without tickets, he said, “to get as much impressions as possible”.

The Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich’s football club, will have around 67,000 seats on Sunday, league officials said, although the stadium could accommodate more football matches.

The Bucs is one of four teams that have international marketing laws in Germany. The others are Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, and New England Patriots. This means they can cultivate fans and trade deals in the country.

Bucs will receive support from the host, but the other three are also organizing events in Munich this week to gather as many “undecided” fans as possible.

“Not only is this a large pool, but its demographics are very valuable,” said CEO Mark Donovan, citing the age range from 18 to 34. “Much of this demo has already indicated a desire to participate in the NFL. They follow the NFL in some shape or form – players, teams, leagues – and are hesitant.

The NFL and Bundesliga recently agreed to work together on fan acquisition and broadcast technology. Teams with national rights can work with individual clubs, as the Panthers did by co-hosting a watch event with Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Germans got a taste of football when the American troops stationed here organized matches in the 1970s. The German soccer league was established in 1979 and the country has a football-style club system that develops young players.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the August 1990 preseason game was a turning point. The Chiefs played the Los Angeles Rams at the Olympic Stadium in West Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall and just before reunification.

According to media reports, there were 55,000 fans, many of whom did not understand the game but liked aspects of Americana such as tailgating, cheerleaders and frisbee chasing dogs.

“It really kindled our passion for saying that we truly believe we can bring more football in Europe,” Goodell said on a fan forum in London last month.

An early version of NFL Europe was launched in the spring of the following year.

Meanwhile, the European Football League recently ended its second season, with seven of Germany’s 12 teams before expanding in 2023. The NFL allowed the new league to use team names from the NFL Europe era.

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