With the announcement that Major League Baseball is coming to London in 2019, today we are asking, are American sports finally breaking on to the international scene and in the UK in particular?
American sports are uniquely “American” in the fact that they largely have a domestic following, with little support outside of the US. The US sports market is huge, worth an estimated $71 Billion annually. This has meant that there has been little need for the major sports to expand beyond their traditional base as the domestic market provides enough income for the likes of the NFL, NBA and Major League baseball to be amongst the largest sports in the world. In fact it’s probably only Soccer that matches the revenue generated from the major US sporting interests.
In recent years however, we have seen the likes of the NFL start to spread its wings. There are no less than 3 games planned for the 2018 season that will take place in London. One could look upon this move with some scepticism. It conjures up an image of NFL teams playing in empty stadiums as Brits shy away in favour of following soccer, the predominant sport in the UK. However this couldn’t be further from the truth. These games are often played in front of “packed to capacity” crowds and the numbers are growing year on year.
If there’s another area where you can see if US sports are really taking hold, it’s in the betting markets. The British love to gamble, in fact the UK has some of the most relaxed gambling laws in the world. The bookmakers in the UK seem to be capitalising on the popularity of the NFL in the UK too, with a huge increase in NFL free bets and offers between 2016 & 2018. It is certainly the case that, this increased promotional activity by bookmakers wouldn’t be happening if there wasn’t the demand for it.
The NBA has also started to play games in the UK, with major games played at the O2 arena. Whilst it hasn’t taken off in quite the same way as the NFL, again you can see a steady increase in attendance, as these fixtures become a regular feature in people’s sporting calendars.
It seems probable that Major League Baseball has taken a look at the success of the NFL experiment and saw no reason to not emulate it. Time will tell whether it can replicate the success that the NFL has achieved over in the UK, but you have to start somewhere and it will be very interesting to see how the next few years progress.