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NFL - US Sports: Interest booms in Munich game

Tickets for the NFL's regular season debut in Germany became like gold dust when Munich's Allianz Arena sold out within minutes of sales opening last week.

Reports have suggested they could have filled the venue 40 times over with demand outstripping supply for the clash between Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks on 13th November.

Brady's appearance is of course a huge draw, but it isn't the only reason why the 'Bratwurst Bowl' - as it may or may not become known as in the future - is another massive step in the globalization of the NFL.

The NFL in Europe

The seeds were first sown over 30 years ago when contributions of $50,000 from each NFL team helped set up the World League of American Football - a championship that began in 1991 featuring seven North American teams and three from Europe.

The London Monarchs beat the Barcelona Dragons in front of over 60,000 fans in the first World Bowl that year, but the WLAF was losing money and struggling to attract an audience in the US.

The Frankfurt Galaxy were crowned champions in 1995 as German teams dominated the league until 2007, when officials announced that NFL Europa - as it was then known - would be disbanded.

A different strategy was required to crack the old continent and so the International Series was established - bringing regular season games to Wembley, Twickenham, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the Azteca in Mexico City on an increasingly regular basis.

The success of those games, the vast majority being sold out well in advance, encouraged NFL executives to run feasibility studies over where further expansion could come.

Growing fanbase in Germany

Although the NFL pulled out, the passion for American football in cities such as Frankfurt, Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Berlin never went away. The German fans' appetite was sated by regular TV coverage of the NFL and the audience grew quickly - the average viewing figures for the Super Bowl doubled between 2013 and 2020.

Over two million viewers tuned in for each of the last two Super Bowls and recent market research has revealed that in an advertiser's target group of 14-to-49-year-olds, American football trails only soccer in popularity among Germans and is now clear from former ratings guarantors like ski jumping, cycling, biathlon or handball.

German fans love aspects of football culture, such as tailgating and no longer have gaps in their understanding of the rules or conventions of the game, so it was only natural that the NFL chose to target the lucrative market there next.

Munich won the rights to host this year's Buccaneers-Seahawks game, but the NFL will debut in Frankfurt next year and alternate between the two cities for the next four years.

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Tickets and satisfying demand

Satisfying the latent demand for live experiences appears to be the organizers' next challenge, as well over two million fans were seemingly left disappointed when tickets for November's big game sold out.

"We were able to anticipate it a bit in advance due to the approximately 600,000 registrations for the pre-sale in the past weeks," Alexander Steinforth, head of the NFL's operations in Germany, told local news outlet Ran.

"At the peak, however, there were about 800,000 people in the virtual queue at the same time. This level of demand - whether for sporting events or concerts - is usually only seen at the Super Bowl."

The game itself

It's the sort of unprecedented demand that has left some cynics to question the sanity of fans willing to part with their hard-earned cash to watch a lopsided match-up that probably wouldn't raise the pulse rate of the American public over their usual resting state.

Brady's Bucs are among the leading contenders to win it all this season and will probably start as double-digit favourites against a Seahawks team in transition after Russell Wilson's defection to Denver Broncos.

But in that sense, it's the perfect game for Munich as most neutrals will probably side with the Bucs, whose home game it is anyway, and the Seahawks seem suited to the role of stooges for the day - although it's conceivable that they won't lack for support in the stands.

For Tampa Bay, it's a major opportunity to tap into a potential new fanbase and for the NFL to conquer a new market.

The Bucs, together with the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots secured exclusive five-year marketing rights to the territory and will attempt to make the most of their Munich trip.

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