Yesterday, we wondered aloud whether the NFL was wondering not aloud about the potential for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to one day become London’s team. Today, for a significantly more British perspective on the future of NFL football in the United Kingdom, I caught up with Paolo Bandini, who covers two kinds of football (Italian and American) for the London Guardian.
You might also recognize Paolo’s name from our very own Footy Blog.
Once we were done discussing Cesare Prandelli’s coaching tactics during the qualifying stages of Euro 2012 (not really), I asked Paolo about what the London series has done for American football in the U.K.
“From the point where I really got involved in the sport — about 1998 — participation at least has generally always been growing (just for the most part not very quickly). The last few years it has been growing markedly faster, and when I have spoken to the organisers of those leagues, they have invariably cited the International Series as the single greatest factor.
“Now there is still a question here about whether interest has grown enough to justify the NFL’s efforts…but there has always been a core of people here who care about the sport, and that is certainly significantly bigger now than it was before 2007.”
Bandini, who yesterday wrote about the potential of a future London NFL franchise, notes that interest in the Buccaneers has certainly grown based on the fact that the Glazers own both the Bucs and Manchester United, but he also cautions that a lot of United fans despise the Glazer family for the way in which they’ve managed the soccer club.
I’m based in Toronto, and when people ask me whether I’d become a fan of a Toronto NFL team, I always tell them I’d never switch allegiances because a team came to my city, and I get the feeling that the majority of my friends are in the same boat. Bandini gets the same sense in London.
“The reaction I’ve had from NFL fans I know and on the Guardian blog has generally been that that there is no way they would switch allegiances to support Tampa Bay just because they are coming to England more,” he told me. “But these are all people who already follow the game and therefore already have an adopted team. I suppose the tricky thing is knowing whether someone totally new to the game, whose interest was piqued by the international games, might think differently.”
I think we’re eventually going to find out.