Nothing is more American than the NFL and the football that it hosts, except maybe baseball, but football gets more attention when you crunch the numbers. That’s because it’s not just the USA that is watching, the NFL has an international audience that watches every game, either for fun or to place bets on the outcome, or both! Naturally, you can wager on international events through your favorite NFL sportsbook.
Being solely based in the USA, it’s always a notable event when the NFL is played overseas. Here we’ve gathered a list of those times where the NFL have moved overseas to put on a show for other nations. They do this through the International Series, which capitalizes on international interest by hosting games in Canada or in distant continents like Europe and South America.
Early International Attempts
Before establishing the several international series that we’ve covered here, it should be noted that there were early attempts to take the NFL overseas. The NFL had secured an international audience during the early 2000s, so they tried to capitalize on their newfound popularity overseas by setting up the Europa Bowl and the China Bowl. Alongside the American Bowl, these other Bowls would take the NFL from one continent to three.
The China Bowl never properly started while the Europa Bowl started, went for a few seasons, and then folded. While Germany and Canada later set up their own football leagues, they were unaffiliated with the NFL and the international expansion was considered a failure.
It didn’t harm the viewership of the American NFL overseas, however, hence why they didn’t give up on taking their brand of the sport to Europe, Asia, and other international fanbases.
The NFL London Series
After their previous failed attempts, the NFL attempted to expand overseas to Europe again in 2007. This time they found great success with the NFL London Series, which is still going on to this day.
Upon introducing the NFL London Series to Britain’s ancient capital, tickets to the first game were sold out in mere hours. It was a showdown between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium, which was also one of the biggest stadiums in London during 2007. Games would be played annually at the Wembley stadium for eight more years.
They expanded the number of games played in 2012 too after the Jacksonville Jaguars hosted 4 London games, too. In 2015, the London Series moved from Wembley to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for 2 annual games. They also expanded to play 3 games at the Twickenham Stadium. The president of the NFL has also indicated they’d be interested in holding a Super Bowl event in London.
As for the future, the NFL is looking at expanding into the United Kingdom Series, hosting events not just in London but across England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland too!
The Bills Toronto Series
Concurrently with the establishment of the NFL London Series w as the Bills Toronto Series, which ran from 2008 to 2013. This was a series of events that, as you may have figured out, revolved around the Buffalo Bills. Each season, they played one game at the Rogers Center in Toronto, Canada.
Across the span of the series, they played a total of 8 games in Canada and won only 3 of them. While the events sold well at the start, sales slowly declined year-over-year until the series was canceled in 2013.
This was a short foray north of the border for the NFL and we expect the NFL as a whole to return to Canada in the future. By hosting larger events backed by the entirety of the NFL’s roster, not just the Buffalo Bills, it’s virtually guaranteed to be as successful as their British venture.
The NFL Mexico City Series
The latest and most promising international venture of the NFL has been the Mexico City Series. After its start in 2016, the Mexico City Series is still going strong today, just like its London equivalent.
There are natural advantages to the Mexico City Series that the London Series doesn’t have, such as operating in the same time zones. This means that NFL players jetting down to Mexico City don’t lose time for adjustment like they do when they jet off to Europe or other intercontinental locations.
So far, only 3 games have been played in Mexico City, and one of those was hampered by poor pitch conditions that took the event to LA instead. While that’s a shaky start, the location of an NFL series in a neighboring country should be easier to establish than the already successful London Series.
Establishing a successful Mexico City series could open the door to further expansion into the South American sports market too.
Future International Attempts
With the success of the London Series, the NFL has proven to itself that there’s money to be made overseas. They have wider ambitions than Britain and Mexico. Returning to Canada would make sense given the short-lived success of the Bills’ series, and they have a guaranteed audience there. The same can be said for Germany, which has its own football league as we’ve already mentioned, and so again comes with a guaranteed audience. Remember that Canada and Germany have huge audiences that tune into the NFL, even if they need to stay up late at night to do it in Germany, so they’re the obvious candidates for future expansion.
From there, who knows where the NFL will land next. It will likely involve some expensive experimentation at overseas locations where there’s a large, interested population. Trying for an Asian series again in somewhere like China or Japan might be on the cards, or move further south for an Australian series, or they could strike deeper into South America with a Brazilian series. In time, they could do all of the above if it’s profitable and logistically possible for the players to jet across the world.
Barry Lachey is a Professional Editor at Zobuz. Previously He has also worked for Moxly Sports and Network Resources “Joe Joe.” he is a graduate of the Kings College at the University of Thames Valley London. You can reach Barry via email or by phone.