A NFL UK franchise is “not outside the realm of possibilities,” Maria Gigante, director of events at NFL, has told Access.
The NFL will return to London’s Regent Street for the second year on 27 September for a supersized activation aimed at increasing American football’s popularity in the UK ahead of its annual series of games at Wembley Arena.
Gigante told Access that, along with some basic operational changes, the event will introduce more activations from more partners – including Marriott Hotels and Xbox.
“We’ll be launching the NFL Lab,” Gigante said. “It’s a place for fans to walk through skills, challenges, and drills – and at the end of the day they get compared to a NFL postion. It’s a great social media tool.”
The event offers UK fans unprecedented access to the NFL, with activations around the fundamentals of the game, as well as meet-and-greets with athletes.
Running an activation on London’s busiest shopping street is no easy feat, she added. The operations team is given just seven hours – between 4am when the roads close and 11am when the event opens – for the build.
“There are definitely challenges,” said Gigante. “There’s only a finite amount of space you can work with. But everybody pulls together because it is such a large-scale event. It comes together.
“It definitely took some convincing,” she laughed when asked about getting permission to use Regent Street. “We first met with Annie Walker from the Regent Street Association, got the inspiration and then courted Westminster Council. They’ve been very supportive.”
Last year’s inaugural event brought more than 500,000 people to Regent Street – a great success, Gigante said, for NFL UK. So what makes American football – and the NFL in particular – so popular in Great Britain?
“It’s unique and different,” Gigante said. “We joke internally in the NFL that it’s entertainment above everything else. We bring Americana and a pageantry that you don’t get from a lot of other sports.
“There’s also a sense of community in the NFL,” she added. “You can like one team, your friend can like another, and that’s not a problem. There’s not that rivalry that you get with English football fans.”
And as for that UK franchise? “We could do it,” she said. “It’s definitely something that could happen, or we could play more games here.”
The NFL on Regent Street event is free to attend and will run from noon to 6pm on 27 September. Fans can find more information at www.nfluk.com/regent-street.