Part of American football taking hold long term in the UK is likely seeing it played in the university system here and perhaps at the youth level.
The league is trying to foster grassroots growth. Parsons said it is working with the British American Football Association, which is the governing body for the sport in the UK. The BAFA is part of the European Federation of American Football.
While there has been talk of an NFL franchise based in London — Kraft is a major proponent of that idea because of how it could grow the sport and the league — Kirkwood and Parsons said that is a long way off.
“We would probably need to triple our fan base from where we are,” Kirkwood said. “But next year we will go to the equivalent of a quarter of a regular-season [home] schedule. So although two games doesn’t sound a lot, that’s us coming a really long way from where we were starting 2007.”
“My real focus and my objectives are really about building the fan base,” Parsons said. “We don’t control how teams would choose to locate and it’s not really part of our thoughts, but if we can double the size of our fan base again over the next five years, then we would be establishing conditions where in the future it could be a possibility, but we certainly don’t purport to have that as our primary goal because the primary goal is building the base year after year.”
While the Jaguars are hoping to build a following in the UK by signing the long-term deal to play at Wembley, for now the Patriots remain the most popular team in this country, and Kraft, Kirkwood, and Parsons all point to two main reasons: This is old England and the Patriots play in New England, and the Patriots’ success over the last decade.