This weekend will see the first two Major League Baseball games played in Europe as the London Stadium hosts iconic American teams the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, but just how far can American sports continue to grow in the UK?
First it was the NFL 12 years ago back in 2007, then the NBA in 2013, and 2019 will be the year when the MLB comes to London.
It’s not a surprise that the MLB have made this move, as the UK is a major sporting market and offers a whole new fanbase for the game to reach, where the popularity of cricket will indicate that fans are not put off by sports where matches take a little longer to finish than is the norm.
While the MLB are relative newcomers to this space, dipping their toes in the water for the first time, the NFL could be seen as the veterans on the block who have established a core fanbase this side of the pond.
They continue to make further strides every season, something that Snack Media has closely followed as the exclusive website monetisation partner for the National Football League in the UK and Ireland.
There’s no doubting that the MLB will have taken note of the achievements of the NFL, whose International Series is a mainstay on the schedule, seeing London host 10 regular season matches over the past three years.
Another four are to be played across Wembley and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium later this year – the latter showing the importance of American football by having a dedicated retractable pitch for the sport.
There is still talk that London could be the potential home of an NFL franchise in the future, which would see four games become eight, and if significant logistical and commercial obstacles can be overcome then this could potentially become a long-term reality.
In the short-term, the UK becomes more and more entrenched in America’s game and wherever the fans are players will follow.
The NFL Academy was launched in London just last month and come September British youngsters will have more professional opportunities in the sport.
Budding young Brits will look to follow in the footsteps of former Wasps rugby winger Christian Wade who was part of the league’s International Player Pathway programme and as a result has joined up with the Buffalo Bills.
Participation in the sport in the UK is definitely the key to sustainable long-term growth and the ultimate aim for all major America sporting organisations over here, where a permanent London franchise could make it a whole new ball game.
How far into the future will that be? Well, we will just have to wait and see.
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