The NFL season is back and I’m loving it! Having presented Sky Sports’ coverage for 19 years, I’m so happy to see its popularity is growing so fast here in the UK to the point where we now have three regular season games played at Wembley, starting this weekend.
For you guys working in pubs and clubs in the UK, there’s such a huge opportunity with NFL.
Back in the US, if you can’t be at the game then the sports bar is the place to head — they’re packed for game days. Instead of sitting at home, people choose to go and enjoy the game in a sports bar. It’s a fun atmosphere. I see no reason why the same won’t happen over here and, in fact, I know it already does in a lot of bars.
I guess NFL’s popularity comes from the fact that each game is such an event. People often say to me that they find it confusing, but believe me, if I can understand cricket as an American, anyone can understand NFL!
Soccer (forgive me!) is obviously huge in the UK, so once Premier League matches on Super Sunday are over, you’ve got the chance to keep people in your pub or bar for even longer with the NFL. Super Sunday has become ‘Supersize Sunday’.
Dates for your diary
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
4 October 2.30pm
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars
25 October 1.30pm
Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs
1 November 2.30pm
16-17 January 2016
24 January 2016
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
31 January 2016
Super Bowl 50
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
7 February 2016
Over in the States, the fans do something called ‘tailgating’. The fan experience starts two to three hours before the game kicks off. They park up at the stadium and they’ll bring out their barbecue pits, their food and have a good time together. When you tailgate, you have a chance to meet a lot of like-minded people. Everybody’s there for the same thing.
They have a good time and it’s a major social event. I think that’s the key — the NFL creates positive social events.
In the UK, I’d love to see the tailgating experience recreated in pubs — people getting together for some barbecue food, some drinks and sitting together to watch the game. I think it would be perfect.
On screen, what we try to do with the coverage on Sky Sports is educational because there’s a lot of people who might not understand the sport, so we have to continue to bring those people on board while at the same time not offending those who know more about it. You should pick it up pretty quickly.
Ones to watch
In terms of teams to look out for, I'd suggest Seattle Seahawks (who have been in the Super Bowl in the past two years), New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and, possibly, Denver Broncos – while quarterback Peyton Manning is on his way out, their defence is very strong so if they do it, they’ll have to do it from a defensive point of view.
I’m obviously looking forward to the games at Wembley. To now have three games in London as part of the NFL schedule I think is outstanding. The teams come over and are truly surprised by the enthusiasm of the fans from beginning to end. In the second game on 25 October, you’ve got my home town team, the Buffalo Bills, coming to London so I’m looking forward to seeing them.
We’ve got more than 100 games live on Sky Sports for you this season, so I’d urge you to give it a go if you haven’t already. You can create a really fun atmosphere in your pub and everyone always enjoys the food and drink that comes with it. I hope you’ll join us along the way as we head towards Super Bowl 50 in February.
Sky Sports is the only place to watch the NFL season unfold, having recently been awarded the rights to the NFL’s Sunday Night Football for the next two years, bringing viewers more than 100 live matches a season.
Get your game plan ready
- Go long on Sundays — with live Barclays Premier League action on Sky Sports on Super Sunday, keep people in your venue for longer and attract new customers by switching to the NFL for Sunday Night Football.
- Hold American theme nights — go to town on decorations and turn your pub into an American sports bar for the day while showing all the big NFL action on your screens.
- Offer an American menu — what’s better than watching NFL in a pub? Watching NFL in a pub with a few drinks and a plate of ribs, chicken wings and pulled pork, that’s what! Offer a menu of American classics that are easy to prepare en masse, only available while the game’s on.
- Use additional viewing cards — Sky Sports customers have the benefit of more money-making opportunities with so many sports. La Liga and NFL may sometimes overlap, so why not show both at the same time with an additional viewing card.
- Turn the sound up — if you’re not familiar with the rules, or what it means when a flag is thrown by the referee, let the commentators help you along the way. You’ll soon pick it up.
Reader competition: a real steel
Sky is offering one lucky competition winner a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey signed by star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. To win, all you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org by 7 October with your name, contact details and the name and location of your venue. The winner will be picked at random.
Terms and conditions: prize is available to existing Sky commercial customers in the UK and ROI. This promotion opens at midnight on 1 October 2015 and all entries must be received by 11.59pm on 7 October 2015. One entry per venue. One winner will be selected by a random computer-generated draw. The winner will be notified by email. Prize includes one Pittsburgh Steelers training jersey signed by Ben Roethlisberger. There are no cash alternatives to the kit.