Why is the NFL popular in Britain?

NFL, American Football, Wembley, Kettlemag, Benjamin Park
Written by Ben Park

I love sport. I can’t deny it, I enjoy watching most sports but for years I was very much of the mind-set that American football is just rugby with pads and that itself disinterested me. However, when I first saw the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Dallas Cowboys at Wembley Stadium advertised late last year, I gave the sport a chance and was found that I really enjoyed it, once I understood the rules of course.

I can now say that I am one of a growing number of Brits loving this hugely influential sport, but why is the sport so popular in Britain today?

Now, first and foremost, I am a massive football fan and growing up there was nothing better than going to a match. Being so close to your heroes, singing along during the match, the pie at half time; you just couldn’t beat it. There was a sense that was all you were there for. When you watch an American football game though, you get the feeling that you are not just there to watch the game, you are there to see a spectacle as a whole and I can imagine in person they are absolutely incredible. With half time shows, cheerleaders, music and the atmosphere, an American Football game does seem to provide the full works. You really get the feeling that it is a full entertainment package and I think this is one of the main reasons that makes the sport so popular.


I don’t know about anyone else but when I watch a sporting event, booze never seems to be too far away and I just love the idea of tailgating. In case you’re unaware, tailgating is basically a party before a game with BBQ’s and alcohol in the car park of the stadium. So in essence, for us Brits who can’t make the trip across the pond, it is a chance to host a big round of pre-drinks and a barbeque with your mates to get ready for the game. I can’t think of a better way to prepare to be honest.

There are many other reasons why the sport is so popular, but I feel like the structure of the sport is the most important. Relating back to English Football, as a Manchester United fan, the class of ’92 is a huge part of footballing history for me. Young British talent brought up through the ranks and taking on the league by storm and winning it was nothing short of brilliant. Sadly, we see less and less of that in today’s game as money becomes ever more present and the richest clubs win simply because they can afford the best players. This is a somewhat different case in the American game though.


The NFL uses the draft system. The draft players are the best players scouted from the colleges around the US. The 32 teams in the NFL then have seven rounds of draft picks, where teams pick a player per round. The order in which the teams pick depends on their placement in the previous campaign. The team with the worst regular season record will pick first and so on, with the winner of the Super Bowl picking last. This system is predominately where the majority of NFL clubs get their players. Still with me? Good. 

This reversal of picking order through the draft system means that, although trading between teams and vast amounts of money are ever-present in the sport, year in, year out, different teams get the opportunity to significantly improve. With this improvement, the same teams do not win all the time and that in itself is very exciting. In ‘soccer’ as a club fan, going into a season you kind of know where your team is going to end up at the end of the season, whereas in American football anything can happen after the draft.

Every game counts for every single team, and each game becomes a real spectacle for all American football fans. You simply cannot get better than that.