“We’re reaching really interesting audiences who maybe aren’t as easily reached…” explained NFL UK General Manager, Henry Hodgson.
As the fan-base in the United Kingdom continues to grow each season, and talk of a British NFL franchise being a major focal point of discussion, Hodgson spoke to Insider Sport about the NFL Foundation’s expansion into Birmingham and Greater Manchester.
The Foundation was set up to help provide flag football programmes, training and equipment to young people in the UK and offer access to “positive pathways” and develop skills to benefit them in the future.
Hodgson noted: “We are really proud of the fact that there’s been a good cross section from those that are underrepresented people. 75% of those are from a diverse, underrepresented background and 58% of the participants are female.
“We’re reaching really interesting audiences who maybe aren’t as easily reached by these types of programmes for the sport.”
“To say it’s so 58% of the participants in those London programs are female. So we’d expect to see the same kind of results in Manchester and Birmingham.
“I think one of the reasons for that is that flag football as a sport is relatively new to the audience that it’s reaching. It’s kind of a blank slate, if you like it, there are no preconceptions about whether this is a sport for boys or girls or any other backgrounds.”
After building up a solid base in the capital, the NFL has now moved forward with an expansion of the foundation to Birmingham and Manchester.
This is an unsurprising choice given the large populations and sporting heritage of both cities, with Hodgson noting that the two regions represent an opportunity to maximise the Foundation’s reach across England.
“The more kids we can get playing football, the more likely it is that we’re going to reach that audience and that they’re going to become followers of the sport over the long term.
“It sits very closely alongside a lot of the other strategies we have to grow the sport in the UK, but certainly a very crucial one. I think, in this case, it has the benefit of being able to leave really positive impacts with the kids that we’re reaching.”
Whilst a UK franchise may not be on the horizon just yet, Hodgson was keen to reiterate that the activities of the NFL foundation mean that we can only expect the League’s visibility in the UK to grow over the coming years.