Last season, the very-first NFL regular season game held in Germany was described by Tom Brady as: “one of the great football experiences I’ve ever had.”
The game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks at the Allianz Arena in Munich was remarkable for numerous different reasons – from the demand for tickets to the game-day atmosphere – as explained by Managing Director of NFL Germany, Dr. Alexander Steinforth, who joined Neil Reynolds on the latest episode of the Decyfr Handoff podcast.
“We spoke to Ticketmaster, who is our ticketing partner, last year, and they said they’d never seen any event outside of the Super Bowl generate so much demand, whether it’s been a concert or sporting event,” Steinforth said.
“We couldn’t have been happier with how it went that first year.”
He then touched upon the incredible support German NFL fans showed at the game in Munich, with the whole stadium famously singing Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver, in unison.
“Every time we have a senior stakeholder meeting and we’re talking about Germany, we use that video piece [of the fans singing] to remind everyone of how emotional that game in Munich was,” Steinforth said.
“Everyone gets goosebumps every time we show it.”
This year, one regular season game in Germany becomes two, as this November, the Miami Dolphins will face the Kansas City Chiefs, and then the Indianapolis Colts take on the New England Patriots in Frankfurt – another set of games that saw an unbelievable demand for tickets.
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) May 10, 2023
“We had 1.5 [million people waiting for tickets to] the first game, then more than three million for the second,” Steinforth said.
“It’s crazy, I mean if you look at those numbers, it’s nothing that the market has ever seen before for any sporting event in Germany – whether it’s a World Cup or a UEFA Champions League Final,” Steinforth said, stressing that the country’s appetite for NFL football this year isn’t just because the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs, or the league’s most successful team of the last 20 years, the Patriots, are making their way to Frankfurt.
“No matter who would have played this year in Germany, people would have been excited,” he explained.
Germany has always had a passion for American football, dating back to the days of NFL Europe, the league’s former European arm which featured German teams – such as the Frankfurt Galaxy, Rhein Fire, Berlin Thunder, and Hamburg Sea Devils. These fans remained avid followers of the NFL even after NFL Europe’s dissolution in 2007.
“Germany has a rich history of American football, of the NFL, [from] back in the day when we had the NFL Europe,” Steinforth said.
“We still have a lot of fans that were acquired in the ‘90s and 2000s.”
Kyle Richardson, Super Bowl XXXV champion with the Baltimore Ravens, and former Rhein Fire punter, spoke on a previous edition of the Decyfr Handoff about his experiences playing in Germany, commenting on the country’s “amazing fan base” and the “60,000 raucous fans” that would come to watch the games.
🗣️ 'Germany had an amazing fan base!'
In the upcoming episode of the Decyfr Handoff, @neilreynoldsnfl spoke to @NFLAlumni’s Kyle Richardson about his time in NFL Europe – and how it paved the way for the International Series as we know it…#Decyfr #NFL | @NFLDeutschland pic.twitter.com/cD07SnIFmu
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) March 15, 2023
This die-hard NFL fanbase, combined with the NFL’s Global Markets Program – which allows franchises the opportunity to market themselves in different territories all over the world – proves NFL Germany’s commitment, as put by Steinforth, to “growing the game, growing the league, in a healthy and sustainable way”.
In May, the Atlanta Falcons became the fifth team to be awarded marketing access in Germany, joining the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
NFL Germany, and Germany’s Global Markets Program teams, stage watch parties and fan festivals, have NFL legends and cheerleaders visit parts of the country, and most importantly, run flag football clinics.
“For us [flag football is] crucial,” Steinforth said.
“But flag football is not necessarily just about trying to find the next talent who will eventually end up in the NFL, it’s so much more. It’s about getting younger kids to [play] sports again, it’s about setting up teams – it’s one of the few sports where you have girls and boys playing together.
“And, it’s essentially just about fun!”
So, after Commissioner Roger Goodell made news around the NFL world during last season’s London Games when he openly discussed the possibility of, not just a franchise in Europe, but a whole division, is Germany ready for its own NFL team?
“That’s above my pay grade and for someone else to decide!” Steinforth joked.
“I think what you’ve seen over the past couple of years over here is that there’s definitely [an] appetite for much more NFL football that we can currently fulfil, even with two games.
“The only thing we can do is to work on that level of interest we’re seeing right now, to make sure that people really understand that the NFL is here to stay.”
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