NFL London: Analysis of the International Series
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NFL London: Analysis of the International Series

This year will see the 30th regular-season NFL London match staged since the International Series began, with games taking place on October 10 and 17.

We’ve taken a look at what this flagship event has delivered for both the sport of American Football and its UK-based fans to date.

The history of the NFL International Series

American football teams have been playing in other countries since the 1920s, but the concept of hosting regular-season games abroad is a relatively recent one.

In 1986, the NFL began staging pre-season exhibition games – known as the American Bowl – outside of the United States to boost its popularity overseas. Almost two decades later, we saw Fútbol Americano in Mexico City, where a regular-season game was played abroad for the first time.

October 2007 saw the NFL International Series begin with the first regular-season game to be staged in another country. Over 80,000 people packed Wembley Stadium in London to watch the New York Giants defeat the Miami Dolphins 13-10.

Since then, two other venues in London have staged International Series games. First, the home of English rugby – Twickenham – in 2016 and then in 2019 the newly-constructed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The latter will host both games in 2021 as part of a 10-year deal, with two matches a week apart.

Which NFL teams have played in London the most?

There are five NFL teams who have played at least three regular-season matches in London since the series began. October 2021 will mark the Jacksonville Jaguars’ eighth appearance and the Miami Dolphins’ fifth, with no other franchises having visited the British capital more often.

The only current NFL team never to have played a regular-season game in London are the Green Bay Packers, whose reliance on home matches for income have made them reluctant to sacrifice a game at Lambeau Field.

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Does home field advantage translate to London?

Unsurprisingly, the designated home teams in London games have collectively fared worse than they would have at their own stadiums. However, home field advantage hasn’t just been eliminated but reversed, with the designated visitors having won five more of the games staged in London to date.

Which conference’s teams fare best in London?

Teams from the National Football Conference have fared far better than those from the American Football Conferences in regular-season games held in the UK. NFC teams are 16-9-1 so far, compared with 11-18-1 for their AFC counterparts.

When we strip out encounters between teams from the same conference, the difference is even more stark. Just four of the 16 NFL London matches between AFC and NFC teams have been won by the former, with 11 NFC victories and one tie.

Are the London matches a good omen for the season?

A win in London is great news for your season, but only if you were playing as the away team. Of the 16 designated visitors to have won in the British capital, only three failed to qualify for the post-season that year.

Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of the designated home winners did not go on to reach the play-offs, with just four out of 11 extending their season.

How popular are the NFL London matches?

Since they began in 2007, NFL International Series games in London have attracted an average of 19% more spectators than other regular-season matches: an average of almost 81,000 each time. Furthermore, the majority of the teams to have played a match in the UK did so in front of their highest attendance that season.

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