American Football on the rise in the UK

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After this years utterly thrilling Superbowl, the popularity of American Football on these shores is at an all-time high.

In the NFL’s trip ‘across the pond’ in 2016, Wembley Stadium saw gates in excess of 80,000 spectators for the ‘International Series’.

Whilst viewing figures are not out for either Sky or BBCs coverage of the New England Patriots overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night in Houston, the previous year’s final, where the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers, drew in over 800,000 viewers to the Sky Sports broadcast.

Despite this, you rarely see people talking about American Football teams in the United Kingdom.

Unbeknownst to many though, they do exist, and the chief executive of the British American Football Association (BAFA), Martin Cockerill, says the Superbowl attracts many people to start playing the game in the UK from all ages.

“We see a spike in contacts and interest following the Superbowl,” said Cockerill.

“We have had good growth figures every year, ones which have shown us that more people from all ages are taking up the sport.”

The BAFA has three divisions in the same format as the NFL, with geographic conferences splitting teams into sub-divisions.

The North West currently has two teams occupying the Northern section of the Premier League, and one team each in Divisions One and Two.

One of those is the Lancashire Wolverines, based in Blackburn, and the other being the Merseyside Nighthawks, who ply their trade in the Childwall suburb of Liverpool.

The Manchester Titans play in Division One, and the Chester Romans complete the quarter of North West outfits in the third tier.

Despite the array of North West sides, it has been two London based sides who have dominated the scene in the last eight years.

In the UK equivalent of the Superbowl, the ‘Britbowl’ has been taken by the London Blitz in the last four years, and the four years before that, the London Warriors were the winners.

Cockerill believes that the North-West teams can make a push to close the London dominance in the next few years.

“The catchment area of London is a big bonus for them, but it’s more the management and coaching that has been a winning formula for the Blitz and the Warriors,” he said.

“There are similar set ups across the country, including the North West, with good coaches producing great athletes, but they lack the catchment area, however they are narrowing the gap each year.”

Cockerill himself knows that the British equivalent of the sport will never be even 1/10th as popular as the NFL, but he is not for the want of trying.

All the teams from the top level to the bottom are ran by volunteers, but he is doing all he can to increase the exposure given to the game he runs.

“We would love to see more funding go into the game,” he said. “The membership fees of everyone that is involved with the sport pays for everything at present.

“We are trying to raise awareness through the media in the hope that they will help the sport grow, and boost attendances for all clubs.”

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