A weekend away to Germany is always an enticing prospect. Oktoberfest in Munich with a few Bundesliga games thrown in? Sounds great. Now, we can add another element into the mix - The National Football League. In my first weekly column for The Irish NFL Show, I have decided to celebrate the growth of the NFL overseas. While we won’t have a game at the Aviva or Croker anytime soon, I am delighted for my German NFL friends. If the non-Irish game gets you down, check out the 1997 game here.
Last week, the NFL announced the next step in the international expansion process. For the first time, an official acknowledgement was made which stated a desire to play a regular season game in Germany.
"The International Series has become a highlight of the sporting calendar in the UK, with many fans travelling from Germany to attend," said Brett Gosper, NFL Head of UK and Europe. "We are very excited about the development of our German fan base, and the time is right to identify a partner who can execute a game at NFL standards as part of our international growth strategy. This process is designed to explore potential local partnerships, stadium suitability and game logistics. We need engaged and motivated host partners that span the public sector, venue, sport, community and major event spheres and can help us deliver a high-impact event and a long-term partnership. Identifying a preferred host city is a key step in bringing regular-season NFL games to our millions of German fans."
The next step for the growth of the game in Germany has begun. Now, we must wait to see which city and stadium will be selected. In a very unpredictable time, the NFL are at the forefront of expansion and for fans around the continent of Europe and beyond, this is superb news. London has had at least one International Series game from 2007, when the Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Giants at the new Wembley stadium. Now in 2022, Germany is set to make its debut.
When I first started to research the growth of the NFL overseas, I was quite frankly stunned by the support and progress of the sport in Germany. This shouldn’t be a surprise - NFL Europe performed well in Germany prior to the league folding and there are as many, if not more fans in Germany than there are in the UK. The television coverage in Germany is hugely popular.
“Football has a growing fanbase in Germany. Between five hundred thousand and one million people watch the games each week during the regular season,” said Roman Motzkus, RanNFL. “The Super Bowl pulled in more than two million viewers during the night in Germany. Outside of the league, Germany has more than 70,000 active players at grassroots levels - and it is still growing. I believe an NFL game in Germany will be sold out in less than an hour. I hope this will be the next step in making Germany a stable market for American Football for a long time.”
Roman’s comments about the growth of the game in Germany ring true from Tiziana Hoell, who is the owner of Woman Coverage. “My co-host Anna and I founded Woman Coverage, the first female only NFL podcast in Germany, last fall. We focus on topics aside from the daily football news and dive deep into diseases like CTE, criminal aspects and social issues around the sports. In Germany, the NFL gains more and more attention each season and there is a huge community of fans and people who regularly travel to the US or the UK in order to attend games. The NFL is broadcast on German TV with German commentary as well, so you can definitely see an upward trend there, so finally getting our own game is huge for the future of American Football in Germany.”
Finally, where in Germany should the game be played? This is the big question at the moment. With a population of over eighty million people and numerous popular cities, there are many acceptable options for the game to be played. Also, with the modernisation of various stadia, partly in thanks to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Germany stands as a country ready to welcome not only NFL games, but various other international events such as UEFA Euro 2024.
“I see only two stadiums in Germany for the NFL Games. The Munich Allianz Stadium and the Berlin Olympiastadion. As a native Berliner, I prefer the Olympiastadion,” said Roman Motkus. “The stadium was already home for four American Bowls in the 1990‘s and it has the NFL feeling with the crowd.”
On this week's edition of The Irish NFL Show, RanNFL host Jan Stecker selected his option. “I think the Allianz Arena in Munich has some really good elements that would make you put a football game there. It has the best section in the stadium for VIP guests in Germany. Also, it is one of the most modern stadiums/arenas that we have in Germany. But, it could be a little small for the players and staff on the roster. I think for Americans, Munich is one of the best known cities in Germany. For the players, you could say go to Cologne, to Dusseldorf or Munich and they will select Munich. But, Berlin is a little bit better. It is the historical stadium, it is the Olympic stadium and it is now modern. You can really do a lot of things there and it is great, big and you have enough room. I think this would be the better choice for the NFL.”
Tobias Mayer of Broncos Europe D-A-CH said, "I believe Munich is the best option as the Allianz Arena is an internationally recognised stadium with great potential. The NFL may find it difficult to fit the players at the side of the field, but they should be able to overcome this. I am excited for this potential game and I believe that with the additional game each season now, we will hopefully see a game in both Munich and Berlin in the future."
For Tiziana, there are a number of different options. “As already mentioned, people are super hyped about getting an NFL game in Germany as there had been rumors about this for some years now. The field of the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern München, is most likely too small to fit all of the necessities that the NFL needs. I see better chances either for Frankfurt (large airport, American Football history, amazing Skyline) or Berlin (capital of Germany, new, large airport and tons of sightseeing opportunities for tourists).
It seems like we are off to Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin in 2022 or 2023. I don’t think any Irish NFL fan will mind which city it is!
In reality, the NFL fan in Europe is the real winner. With games in London and potential games in Germany and other countries, the league is putting the international fans in full focus. If you didn't catch our interview with Henry Hodgson - VP of International Marketing for the NFL a few weeks ago, I strongly suggest you check it out. The outlook for fans on this side of the pond is looking very promising indeed.
You can contact me on Twitter @Michael_NFL.