Germany overtakes UK as top European NFL market

MUNICH (AP) — Seattle Seahawks fan Lukas Spiess was surprised by what he noticed during a Stuttgart football game a few weeks ago.

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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Seahawks at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday in the first NFL regular season game in Germany. In the next three years, Munich will host another and two Frankfurt.

Overall, Germany has overtaken Britain as the NFL’s biggest market in Europe.

Workers prepare a sign inside the FC Bayern Munich soccer stadium Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to play the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL game at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

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Workers prepare a goal inside the FC Bayern Munich soccer stadium Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to play the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL game at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

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Workers prepare the FC Bayern Munich soccer stadium Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to play the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL game at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

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Workers prepare the FC Bayern Munich soccer stadium Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to play the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL game at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matthias Schrader

Workers prepare the FC Bayern Munich soccer stadium Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to play the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL game at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matthias Schrader

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

The UK and Germany each have 3.3 million “fans” of the NFL in a category that is growing rapidly for both, but Germany has a few “fans” – 17 million, said Gosper. London has been hosting regular games since 2007.

Germany has overtaken Britain in the past 12 months, Gosper told a recent sports marketing conference in Düsseldorf.

With Europe’s largest economy, Germany has no interest in the NFL and the country has supported American football in the past. NFL Europe eventually failed, but in its final season in 2007, five of the six teams were German. The Frankfurt Galaxy and Rhein in particular attracted good crowds.

Interest really rose after 2015, when sports became more accessible to viewers on the popular free-to-air channel.

“I feel like it’s growing a lot,” said Spiess, a 31-year-old software engineer. “With the help of social media, too, there’s this buzz around it. Being a fan of American football is cool now. “

Gosper admitted the NFL “maybe a little late” coming to Germany and said adding a 17th game to the schedule is key.

“Having this (extra game) gives us access to Germany, but it’s probably a market that’s ready to see an NFL game here a lot earlier,” Gosper said at the SPOBIS conference in late September.

Alexander Steinforth, the general manager of the NFL in Germany, admitted that it was “very helpful” to have Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady lead the first game of the championship in Germany.

However, he said that the passion of the competition has affected every star.

“The excitement is so great that you can almost bring any team out to play in Germany and people will want to attend the game,” Steinforth said.

Online queues when tickets went on sale in July reached 770,000, although it was not clear whether it was bots or just how many people were on devices. In any case, the demand is double that of the London games, which usually sell out quickly.

“I was trying to do three different machines,” said Spiess, who was struck but then got tickets through a friend in Seattle. “A lot of people are still desperate to get a chance to get the remaining two tickets.”

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

The Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich’s soccer club, will hold about 67,000 on Sunday, league officials said, although the stadium has more soccer matches.

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

The Bucs will get a boost from hosting, but the other three are all holding events in Munich this week, as well, to gather as many “undecided” fans as possible.

“It’s not only a large pool, but the demographics of this pool are very useful,” said CEO Mark Donovan, referring to the age group of 18 to 34. “A large part of this demo has already shown interest in joining the NFL. They follow the NFL in one way or another – the players, the teams, the league – and they don’t make a decision.”

The NFL and Bundesliga recently agreed to collaborate on fan acquisition and broadcast technology. Teams that have rights in countries can work with the same teams, as the Panthers did in a partnership with Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Germans got a taste of soccer when the US military stationed there organized the games in the 1970s. The German football league was launched in 1979, and the country has a club football system that develops young players.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the preseason game in August 1990 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 on the eve of reunification.

Media reports say there are 55,000 fans, many of whom don’t understand the game but love Americana elements like pranks, cheerleaders and frisbee-chasing dogs.

“It really blew our mind that we really believed we could bring more football here in Europe,” Goodell told a fan gathering in London last month.

The first version of NFL Europe launches next summer.

Meanwhile, UEFA recently completed its second season, with seven of the 12 teams in Germany before promotion in 2023. The NFL allowed the new league to use team names from the dates NFL Europe.

AP NFL Report: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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