The times that the NFL ventured out of America for the NFL International Series
Football is America’s favorite sport and the NFL is the only professional football league in the country. So, it is no surprise that it has such high viewership numbers in the USA. However, many people don’t realize that the NFL has an international following.
This following is so big that the NFL has started playing matches in other countries to capitalize on these huge fanbases. England, Mexico, and Canada have all hosted their own NFL series. With Germany and Brazil being next in line to host some games.
Here are the times when the NFL has been played overseas:
Failed endeavors (pre-2005)
In the late 90s and early 2000s, the NFL had big plans to set up NFL leagues across the world. However, these plans did not last long.
They planned to set up a Europa Bowl and China Bowl to go alongside the American Bowl they were running at the time. Sadly, the China Bowl was canceled before it ever got off the ground, and the Europa Bowl folded after only a few seasons.
There are successful football leagues in Canada and Germany still – but they are not related to the NFL.
Despite the Europa Bowl failing, the NFL was still getting large viewing numbers in Europe – particularly in the UK and Germany. They did not give up on the idea of returning to Europe.
NFL London Series (2007 – present)
The NFL London series has been far more successful than anything else the NFL has done in Europe.
The very first London game (Miami Dolphins vs New York Giants) sold out in less than 2 hours. It was held in Wembley stadium which was one of the biggest stadiums in the city at the time. The NFL London games were played once a year in Wembley Stadium until 2015.
From 2012, the NFL London Series expanded to 4 games a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting 4 of their home games in London.
From the 2015-2016 season, the NFL London series moved into the Stadium of the Tottenham Hotspurs. They have been playing 2 games a year at that stadium. They also made a deal with Twickenham Stadium to hold 3 games there a year.
London may even be set to hold a Super Bowl game in the future according to the president of the NFL. When the Oakland Raiders lost the rights to play in their stadium, the NFL even looked at moving the team to London for the year.
And the franchise is definitely looking into making the London series into a United Kingdom Series. It has been mentioned multiple times that the brand has been in talks with the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and venues in Scotland and Ireland.
NFL Mexico City Series (2016 – present)
3* games have been played as part of the NFL Mexico City series. We say three as one of the Mexico City games was actually played in LA because of poor pitch conditions in Mexico.
One of the strengths of the Mexico City series is that Mexico uses central time, meaning 8 of the NFL teams wouldn’t have to change time zones to play there – unlike with London. This means that the NFL players can play in Mexico without needing a week off to adjust.
Bills Toronto Series (2008-2013)
Between 2008-2013, the NFL ran a series where the Buffalo Bills played at least one game a season in the Rogers Centre, Toronto.
The Bills ended up playing 8 games in Canada, only winning 3 of these games. While ticket sales were strong when the series began, over time they dwindled until the series was canceled.
We would not be surprised if we saw the NFL return to Canada in the next few years.
Future plans for the NFL International series
The NFL has made it clear that they have plans beyond London and Mexico City.
The obvious places to start are Germany and Canada. Both of which have their own football leagues and therefore have a guaranteed audience. Canada and Germany are the second and third biggest viewers of the Super Bowl each year – despite the fact the Super Bowl happens in the middle of the night in Germany.
There have also been rumors that the NFL might set up series in China, Brazil, and Australia too. However, there are worries that the air quality in China might put too much strain on the health of NFL athletes.