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NFL UK chiefs are extremely confident with their plans to grow the sport away from the United States. General manager Henry Hodgson spoke exclusively to Express Sport on how they plan to grow a rapidly-expanding UK fan base, with three games being played in London as well as the NFL UK Academy bringing the game to young players through flag football.
Hodgson has worked with the NFL since 2003, spending six years in Los Angeles before returning to London to take the general manager role with the UK team, as they build on what has been an incredible few seasons.
NFL struck a deal with Tottenham Hotspur to play matches at their stadium – the only purpose-built NFL structure outside of the US – for the forseeable future, with tickets selling out at a rapid rate – something the NFL UK want to build on.
Hodgson told Express Sport: “The demand for the sport is there, it’s tremendous. Every year, the demand always exceeds the seats in the stadium. We are lucky with this standpoint, but we do not want to rest on our laurels and just expect that this will continue without us improving our product.”
To continue the growth, the NFL will focus on the younger generation throughout the UK, after holding a number of taster and trial days for potential players.
Hodgson said: “We are really focussed now on growing the fan base and especially our younger audience. In particular, we believe the 12-24 year olds are where we have the biggest opportunity with. We are doing a lot to grow with them – with digital and social work – while also giving them opportunities to play the sport, especially in flag football.
“We want to be able to create local heroes that will help them fall in love with the game. If they don’t see it, then they may not understand or believe that they can be it themselves. We are looking to make it so that young people in the UK can become NFL players and profile them – that is key for us growing the fan base.
“Beyond that, it’s about us delivering great experiences so that people come to our games and events. The NFL has a great reputation for delivering amazing experiences to its fans and we challenge ourselves to continue to do that – so that when people come they have the best possible sporting experience they can have in the UK.
“We are seeing tremendous growth on not just our ticket demands, but TV viewership and participation in the sport with the academy. There’s a ton of exciting things happening and we will continue with this momentum.”
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