By Andy Davies

“The American Football Revolution: How Britain Fell In Love With The NFL is the remarkable story of how the USA’s biggest sport converted a sceptical soccer-mad nation.

In 1982, an esoteric new TV channel started beaming NFL highlights into British homes and building up a small but devoted audience – just as hooliganism was turning people off the UK’s national game. A year later, the Global Cup saw the Vikings and Cardinals play a flop preseason game at Wembley.

Now, 40 years later, the UK is the NFL’s second home. The marketing muscle of the league played a part but it’s the fans staying up late to watch on TV, creating their own content and booking holidays to the States to coincide with big games that have made the sport a hit.

From the man who sold his home so he could tour the NFL’s tailgate parties to the one who turned his love of the sport into an all-consuming passion for fantasy football, these are the stories of the fans who transformed the NFL from a curiosity to a mainstay in the British sporting landscape.”


This was the Amazon description for Ben Isaacs’ new book – The American Football Revolution: How Britain Fell In Love With The NFL which was released on Monday 28th August.

Discovering The NFL And College Football

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American Football has made some great strides in the UK, and nothing defines that more than Ben Issac’s new book – The American Football Revolution. Ben is an established NFL journalist in the UK, with regular appearances on TalkSPORT2 and the Nat Coombs Show. He spoke about how he got into the NFL:

“I just watched it on Channel 4 one Sunday afternoon because I knew that it was this cool new thing that was around that I had no real concept of what it was. I was little, I was six years old. There was something that made me realise that this was a thing.  I watched a lot of TV those days. I’d probably seen ads,  I probably thought that was something that I should be interested in at that age.

“It was just in fits and starts at that point. I ended up watching some of Super Bowl 20 and I was seven years old, massively responsible from my parents to allow that to happen. I watched some of that, fell in love with the Chicago Bears. From 86, I was then watching every week. I knew when it was on and it was a point of viewing for me at that point.”

Ben's Love Of The College Game In Addition To The NFL

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As well as being an established NFL journalist, Ben has become one of the main figures in the UK community for College Football. He spoke about what drew him to the college game and how he became of the spokesman for that side of the game.

“That started with First Down, which was a weekly newspaper that launched, I think, in 86 and went through into the 2000’s. They would have pages of college football in the back. I enjoyed reading about College Football because it was kind of like a parallel universe. There was no way to watch it. There was different uniforms, different helmets. The University of Miami were really big at that point. Vinny Testaverde was all set to be the first pick in the 87 Draft so there was so much about him. I became interested in the idea that the players that they were talking about on particular college teams would then get into the NFL. My interest was basically just reading about it and reading about the draft really until the 2000s and the launch of NASN (North American Sports Network) which later became ESPN America. It was the first time we had live College Football on TV. The more football the better basically.

“Anyone who has been to a College Football game knows that it’s a more and fun in person experience than going to an NFL game. That really came across in broadcasts. I was playing the NCAA football games on PlayStation and Xbox back in the early 2000’s. They had one bit to simulate the home advantage.

“In those old games, you’d be able to hype the home crowd. The screen would shake and make it difficult for the other team. It was a fun little gimmick but helped emphasise to me the difference between the two games. I just kept watching more, listening to more podcasts. I then started to realise I knew quite abit , not just about the playas, but about the  general college culture. Once I was watching a lot, reading what I could and people knew that I knew what I was talking about, people wanted to book me to talk College Football.”

Inspiration For The Book

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Ben said the book took him 13 months to complete. He talked about what inspired him to write it.

“The way the NFL has grown so much in the UK and hearing people talk about everything from UK players making it into the NFL to the fantastic coverage we have here now to Game Pass to the International Series. The thing is that these are all well and good but they’re nothing if the fans aren’t watching, buying the subscriptions, the tickets. If you watch a game on the Sunday and you’re just a casual fan, you might not think about the sport until the following Sunday but these are not who most people are.

“The way people have come together, creating podcasts, creating blogs, creating networks among themselves is a massive reason the sport keeps getting bigger each year. There should have been dips at some point but there haven’t.

“So much is word of mouth. I don’t think the average person, who doesn’t have an interest in the NFL, is going to watch a game because it’s after a Premier League game on Sky.

“It’s everything that the fans have done. The fans never seem to get enough credit. I don’t know whether it is a British thing, where people don’t want to toot their own horn, they don’t tend to really want to pat themselves on the back. So I thought, I’m going to have to do it myself.

“This is about the fan experience. This isn’t about the decisions the NFL has made. Its about the decisions every fan has made. My hope is that everyone who reads it will see themselves in at least one chapter. I made the decision right at the beginning, not to just write it as  chronological history.

“What I decided, is that I need more fan voices. So, each chapter is from the perspective of a specific fan. All those fans I spoke to, are stand ins for everybody. There will be a lot of old school fans that think that’s exactly their experience. That was me going to my first games at Wembley, et cetera et cetera. My fear was someone would write it and not have the audiences best interests at heart. It’s the fans that have done it and my book is kind of my love letter to anyone that has made any sacrifice to watch the NFL, whether that’s sacrificing sleep, sacrificing money.

The Tailgating Experience And NFL Memorabilia

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“For anyone who has only been to games in London, and they’ve been to what the NFL calls a tailgate party at London, please note that is not a tailgate party. That’s not even remotely a tailgate party. That’s some food trucks.  When you go to a tailgate in America whether its college or pro, I don’t think anything enhances the stadium experience more than tailgating before the game. I felt like people in the UK did not know really much about tailgating for quite a while. The fact that someone did sell their home, told their girlfriend they’re going to sell their flat and going to tour America. The sacrifice that someone has to make to do that, that’s because they experienced one tailgate. That’s the effect it had on them. I feel that person helped spread the love of tailgating across the UK and became a real source for that sort of information because that wasn’t out there.  

“The food I’ve ate at tailgates have been fantastic. Tailgated with Keyshawn Johnson once. Tailgates are amazing. If you come away with nothing else from this book, go to American and go to a tailgate.

“The chapter where I speak to Dan Tearle, about the merchandise and memorabilia that was around in the early days which was a big factor driving forward, especially with kids at that point. It was so nostalgic for me having that conversation with him.

“He’d be able to go through these magazines he’s got and work out how many teams the NFL sold merchandise for. It was something like 12 teams. If you were watching Channel 4 and picked a team, there was a chance you weren’t going to buy anything, which was unfortunate.

“Being able to get scans of these magazine, to make sure I got every detail correct, was very very satisfying. Everyone I spoke to; I could have spoken to for many hours more than I did. Dan is the only one I had to go back to with other chapters.”

Chicago Bears 2023 Prediction

As mentioned earlier, Ben is a big Chicago Bears fan. He spoke of his hopes for their upcoming 2023 season.

“If we can get near .500, I would be very pleased. I could imagine a 7-10 season. If Justin Fields and the offense can show they can really do something even with a patchy offensive line, and the defence cannot be a disaster even with a patchy defensive line  then the arrow’s pointing up. I think they’re a year away from troubling the Wildcard so seven, eight wins is probably to be expected.”

What The Future Holds For The International NFL Fanbase

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Finally, Ben spoke of his prediction for the NFL UK fanbase in five to 10 years’ time.

“I think it’s not going to plateau, but it’s not going to go up massively because I don’t see us getting a whole load of extra games, I don’t see there being an NFL franchise in London. My hope is that we will get some kids come through  at the NFL Academy in Loughborough who get to major colleges and get drafted. Once we see home grown players, knowing they’ve come through a system set up for kids in the UK, once we see them in the NFL, I think the NFL can make its next step in the UK. 

“People will start looking at it in a different way, in the same way lots of European countries look at NBA basketball, knowing the best players from those countries can gravitate to the NBA. The NFL is very different. It’s much harder to get in. You need coaching from an early age. The NFL academy can hopefully do that. It might be that rather than more international series games that really help fans take the next step in its status as a really established sport over here.”

You can buy Ben’s book from a wide range of online retailers, including AmazonWaterstones, and WHSmith.



A Sports Journalism masters graduate, Andy has been writing NFL articles since January 2020. Originally from Wales, Andy also writes for The Franchise Tag Podcast, Decyfr Sport and Andy is also the host of the Across the Pod, Fins Nation UK and Euro Tripz podcasts. Find him on Twitter @andydaviessport.