The not-so-Super Bowl: Why we Brits don’t get it

Will we ever fully embrace the spectacle of American Football?

Image: Gabriel S.

Image: Gabriel S.

7 February 2016 saw the staging of the hotly-anticipated Super Bowl 50, marking the climax of the National Football League’s (NFL) 2015 season (it doesn’t make sense to me that the championship game is held the year after, either).

For those of you who are interested in your American Football, the Denver Broncos triumphed by 24-points-to-10 over the Carolina Panthers to award their veteran quarterback Peyton Manning his second Super Bowl championship. But why should we in the UK be arsed about an event contested solely by American teams 5,000 miles from home?

The sport of American Football has enjoyed a surge in popularity in Britain in recent years.
In fairness, this was recognised by the NFL who began in 2007 to host a yearly game at Wembley  Stadium in London to allow British fans of the sport to catch a game.
The initiative proved popular, with the number of annual games rising to two in 2013, and then three in 2014.

This popularity has continued; the BBC now regularly broadcasts an NFL show featuring highlights of games across the USA during the season. But the fact remains that the sport is, for the most part, incredibly inaccessible to any fans based outside of the USA. Even in America, there are just 32 teams comprising the NFL, to be shared by 50 states.

It’s comparable to there being just one conventional football team in the whole of the UK; that’s a hell of a lot of travelling to watch a match. And that’s not to mention that the sport can be boiled down to an often-boring, stop-start, peculiar Rugby-hybrid, too.

A great deal of its attraction lies in the glitziness that surrounds the event: the multi-million dollar sponsorship deals, the social media hullabaloo that takes place in the run-up, and the star-studded halftime-shows (although the less said about this latest installment the better).

The fact is, the entire event is very much an American thing, something for the entirety of the USA to  sit down and glue their eyes to for four hours on a Sunday night in the middle of winter. Aside from the occasional Wembley match, there is no real involvement by any nations other than the US in the NFL.

Where our version of Football has the likes of the European Champions League and the World Cup, and Rugby the likes of the Rugby World Cup and the  Six Nations to encourage global participation in the sports, American Football is in such a stage of infancy in other countries that it is eclipsed by the glossy NFL.

It could potentially be argued that this is simply an unfortunate coincidence, and that the NFL would welcome competition in other countries to give themselves the chance of dubbing a team “World Champions” in a competition that isn’t just comprised of sides from the USA alone (see the laughable use of the term ‘World Series’ for America’s premier Baseball tournament).

Or maybe they want things to remain as they are, continuing their worldwide monopoly of the sport. It is, after all, a prize winning formula that has led to the domination of the sporting pyche of  an entire nation of 320 million  people. It is American Football after all; perhaps it’s destined to stay that way.


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