NFL popularity growing on Chinese soil
Dan Williams

The Super Bowl's roots are in America, but the contest continues to gain interest around the globe, including in China, where rising viewership has NFL officials looking at someday playing a game in the world's most populous nation.

Super Bowl weekend has long been more than just a game. The eyes of Americans are fixed firmly on Atlanta, Georgia this weekend, but increasingly, the interest in the NFL has grown way beyond the U.S. borders.

London has hosted regular-season NFL games since 2007 while Mexico City has hosted two games. That raises the prospect of an NFL match in China – a nation where interest in the NFL has increased significantly in recent years.

NFL China Managing Director informed, “When we do it, we want to do it right. It's got to be part of a longer-term strategic initiative inside of China. I think you would easily say it is a 'when,' not an 'if.' But, it's a lot of consideration to make sure it is 100 percent right for the fans in China, as well. We do not want to disappoint.”

The NFL fan base in China is growing. The league's commissioner says viewership of regular season games was up 70 percent this season. The number of viewers watching the conference finals increased 170 percent. The New England Patriots played a regular season match in Mexico in 2017. The prospect of doing the same in China appeals to some players.

Young Chinese boys wear pads and helmets as they take part in an American football camp with former NFL players in Beijing, China, July 2, 2018. /VCG Photo

Young Chinese boys wear pads and helmets as they take part in an American football camp with former NFL players in Beijing, China, July 2, 2018. /VCG Photo

Matthew Slater, New England Patriots wide receiver, mentioned, “When you think about the opportunity to go to China – with all the people, and all the fans that are there, and allow them to experience our game first hand – that would be fantastic. I would be excited if I was a player on the team that was going over there.”

Although the appetite to take a game to China is clearly there from the NFL, obstacles remain, before that becomes a reality.

According to Brian Berger, Sports Business Radio host, “They are swimming in money. The NFL makes so much money from TV that they can pay their entire player payroll just with the TV money. Everything else is just gravy to them. So there's not really urgency for them to expand their business and their footprint, because things are going so well for them here in the United States.”

For now, the football focus is on the recent Super Bowl champions. But in the future the Chinese may get a chance to share some of this NFL excitement and that too, in one of their own stadiums.