Ten years ago the National Football League (NFL) crossed the Atlantic to stage its first competitive game outside the Americas, with the New York Giants running out 13-10 winners over the Miami Dolphins.
What started out as a one game per year ‘International Series’ though quickly began to grow, seeing more games and venues being added. This year London will stage four match ups, with two at Wembley being completed over the last two weekends and a further two to come at Twickenham later this month. 2018 will see a minimum of five games staged, as Tottenham Hotspur’s new home enters the mix.
A franchise in the English capital remains the pipe-dream, but with an influx of games comes wave after wave of new fans and a surge in NFL’s popularity in the betting market.
SBC caught up with Liam Durkin, the Head of NFL for Sky Bet, to discuss the betting popularity of American Football in the United Kingdom, and how more people can be persuaded to place a wager.
With an increasing number of games being staged in London each year, what is the popularity of NFL in the UK? And how does it relate to the betting market?
LD: I think the NFL within the UK is hugely popular, I’ve seen the growth on my social media feeds with people slowly tuning into this great game year on year.
The London games have definitely helped grow the hardcore fans, from being fans taking an outside interest into having a team and following them, but it’s also brought a new raft of fans that never thought about NFL as a good sport to follow to now at least having some sort of interest.
In terms of betting markets, London games are always a highlight of the week’s schedule for us. There’s always more interest than the average weekly game, although I’m not sure whether changing the kick off to our afternoon and early morning in the US has helped, or whether it could be even bigger given it often clashes with Sunday afternoon Premier League.
What steps can be made, from a betting perspective, to tap into the fan base further still?
LD: At the moment the game is still evolving within the UK, people like to know information and stats. I think giving people stats and information on previous meetings between two teams, or attempting to highlight, say, who Julio Jones is and how big of a player he is to new fans/bettors is a key process at the moment.
Obviously everyone knows who Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo and even some people will know who James Coppinger is – but they won’t necessarily know Julio Jones, Antonio Brown or Samjae Perine is. If this process can be executed correctly.
I think if any company can make betting appealing to the masses of Fantasy NFL players, there’s a lot of potential for growth in the industry. How that can be done I’m not entirely sure, the search continues.
Also, the NFL can often be a confusing game at times with the various rules and procedures, but allowing customers to bet on what they know and what they understand is a great step forward. Our RequestABet feature on NFL is as popular as ever, allowing people to request a specific bet and then wager on it.
Will we ever reach a stage where American football is amongst the more popular betting sports in the UK?
LD: I can never, ever see American Football (or any other sport) gazumping football from the top of the UK sports betting tree – or at least not whilst the Premier League remains as strong as it currently is, plus Sky Sports & BT Sport are branching out new channels to show more and more non-Premier League Football too.