Superstar Quarterback Tom Brady is also a celebrity in Europe.
American sports are currently conquering the traditional sports nation of Germany. Superstar Tom Brady (45) arrives in Munich on Sunday (3:30 p.m.). At Allianz Arena, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the Seattle Seahawks. The 67,000 seats are sold out long ago. What’s more, the National Football League (NFL) was able to fill the stadium 45 times – the NFL received over 3 million ticket requests.
In Germany, there has been a real hype around American football in the last decade, which has now culminated in the first ever NFL game on German soil. Two American professional league games, which you can see on Sundays from 7pm to 2am on Pro 7 on free TV, have catapulted the sport into the mainstream: American football is now the second most popular (!) televised sport among 14-49 year olds in Germany. Before Formula 1, tennis, winter sports, and even after royal football.
“The entertainment factor plays a very important role, for example the halftime show at the Super Bowl,” says Alexander Steinforth, manager of the NFL office in Germany, for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. “We don’t separate fun from sport, on the contrary, it’s part of our DNA.”
37,000 NFL Swiss Watches
NFL games are also increasingly popular in Switzerland. “Interest in the American professional league has increased,” Gleb Iatsenia, 37, of the Swiss American Football Association (SAFV) tells Blick. “The NFL has always been a niche product in Switzerland. We’re coming out of that corner now.” These statements can be backed up by numbers available to Blick.
37,000 Swiss watch NFL games on Pro 7 every week. For comparison: Saturday’s Super League match between Winterthur and Lucerne at SRF 2 had 86,000. When you consider that, unlike Major League Soccer, NFL games aren’t just flashed across the TV screen in prime time, those are respectable numbers — which can at least keep up with hockey games and tennis broadcasts (minus Federer).
The boom is not as big as in Germany
Market share for the alleged niche product can also be seen at 4 percent among 14- to 49-year-olds. However, it lags behind Germany by up to 16 percent. Iatsenia also says: “There has been a huge boom in American football in our neighboring country. Here in Switzerland, the growth is slower but stable.” In 2010, SAFV still had 1,500 active members, in 2020 there were already over 2,500. An increase of around 70 percent.
“Today we have over 40 teams from Switzerland – and new ones are added every year,” says Iatsenia. The women’s and junior championships are now also being held.
But what is the reason for the hype in Germany and the constant growth in Switzerland? “The Internet,” Iatsenia replies. “Access to games has become easier in recent years. People today see snippets of the sport on the internet. Before 2000, people in Switzerland were lucky to watch the Super Bowl on satellite TV.” The European Football League (ELF) has been a professional league on the old continent for a year. Neither athletically nor economically at the level of the NFL — but another sign that the sport is establishing itself.
More sales than the top 3 in Europe
In addition to physical American football, the non-contact version of flag football is also growing. “It’s a subliminal opportunity to try a form of football without the danger,” says Iatsenia. His association now also organizes flag football championships. In addition, more and more Swiss schools offer this option. Flag football could even make it to the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
In addition to the sports-enthusiastic Swiss, the NFL is also interested in making American football more popular in this country and throughout Europe. The National Football League had a turnover of $17 billion in 2021 – that’s more than the three biggest European football leagues combined. With international games in England and now Germany, the NFL wants to open up additional revenue streams. Additional games in Munich and Frankfurt have already been announced for the coming years. Iatsenia is convinced: “Football will stay in Europe.”