When the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints clash on Sunday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it will be the 31st NFL game to be played in London in which no more than one of the sides took a winning record into the fixture.
The Vikings are two and one this season with a points difference of three, while the Saints are one and two with a differential of 18. It may not be a clash of the titans but, in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t really matter.
Spurs’ 63,000-capacity ground will be packed – NFL data suggests that only three per cent of attendees are likely to be Americans who have travelled from across the pond – and the sport only played at this level in the States will likely continue to blossom over here.
All 32 teams – including, for the first time, the Green Bay Packers – will play a game outside of America, with at least four neutral stadium matches, until the year 2030.
Furthermore, the Jacksonville Jaguars – owned by Fulham FC proprietor Shahid Khan – have committed to hosting a home game in London until 2025.
NFL exploded into Europe in the late 2000s and has barely looked back. Such is its global reach now that Amazon Prime paid $13.2bn to stream 15 Thursday night matches a season for the next 11 years.
The league has also granted rights to 18 of its franchises to explore and exploit dedicated global markets.
The Chicago Bears, Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Vikings, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers have been allocated the rights to market themselves in the UK, while other franchises have opportunities in the likes of New Zealand, Spain, Germany and Ghana.
The Vikings are one of just two teams, along with the Jags, who both hold UK marketing rights and are playing a match in London this year. Sunday’s game will be the first overseas since this new policy of targeted expansion came into effect in January.
“We have a bit of heritage, certainly in Northern Europe. Over time we have played exhibition games many years ago in Scandinavia,” Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf said.
“I know we have great fans in the UK. They have a track record, they stay up late to watch our games and there is a lot of engagement on our localised, UK social media channels. So really it is just a great opportunity to keep that connection going and growing.”
Talk of London hosting a Super Bowl or a permanent franchise has cooled since the pandemic. But, with three games in the capital this year, it looks as though London will remain the NFL’s European hub, despite heading to Germany for one match in November and the possibility of expansions into France and Spain in the future.
So as the first punt kicks off yet another year of NFL in the capital, there’s a reassuring sense that the marketing and logistical agreements made in recent years will see London benefit from American Football for seasons to come.