Why the NFL Will Never Be the World's Game

By Noah Davis 

One more NFL story before we call it a West Coast day.

Sportsnewser friend Simon Evans, a Reuters columnist who lives in Miami but hails from England, offers his thoughts on why the NFL has struggled to breakthrough in Europe. (And it’s not just because they keep sending craptastic football games to London.)

The crux of his argument:


In the early 1990s American sports executives knew that there was potential in the technological, economic and cultural forces of modern globalization to spread professional sports outside of their traditional markets – the NFL and the NBA and to a lesser extent the NHL and Major League Baseball have all tried to exploit overseas markets with varying degrees of success. But what those executives didn’t expect was the boomerang effect – while they have been trying to sell basketball in Beijing and gridiron in Great Britain, soccer has snuck in America’s backdoor while American capital has been put into English clubs Manchester United, Aston Villa and Liverpool.

He has a point. NFL Europa was a miserable failure. The hype that the Super Bowl is “the greatest show on Earth”? Myth:

The annual survey by Initiative Futures Sports and Entertainment showed last year’s Super Bowl was beaten into top spot in annual sports events, for the first time, by the final of European soccer’s Champions League. Last year there was no soccer World Cup or Olympics which regularly beat Super Bowl. Last year’s Super Bowl was watched by a global audience of 162 million but the vast majority of those tuning in were in the United States with neighbors Canada and Mexico the next biggest markets.

So yeah, football may be the sport favored by this quadrant of the globe. But it’s never, ever going to reach much further.