Why An Unorthodox World Cup Will Test The NFL UK Community
By Andy Davies
Football – the one with the round ball – is making considerable changes to their calendar this season. Andy Davies looks at the impact a Winter World Cup could have on NFL viewership in the UK:
This year sees the FIFA World Cup take place, but in very different circumstances.
A tournament which takes place every four years, should be underway at time of writing. However, in 2010, it was announced that the 2022 FIFA World Cup would be held in Qatar. After much discussion, it was decided that the tournament would take place in the winter rather than the usual summer slot.
This caused much controversy from football fans who have only ever been used to watching the games in the sunshine. Instead, they will be swapping beer gardens and shorts for hot chocolate and dressing gowns.
Split Sunday Loyalties
One thing that the World Cup has never done, is clashed with the NFL season. This will be the first time that the two will overlap, and here is why an unorthodox World Cup will test the NFL UK community.
Of course, the NFL reigns supreme in America, with Fox averaging averaging more than 18.5 million views during the 2021 regular season. However, whilst there is everlasting growth in the UK NFL fan community, football/soccer still reigns supreme. So how will the British NFL fan cope with the choice between the sports?
Not every British NFL fan likes football or will want to watch the World Cup but for those that do, it presents a very serious test for the NFL fandom.
If the time difference was on their side, then they could simply record one or the other and watch it afterwards without knowing the score. However, it is a Sunday, and most will have work on the Monday morning. And surviving a day at work without spoiling the result won’t be easy…
Home Nation Conflict
This is the first time since the 2002 World Cup that there will be two home nations in the tournament, with Wales and England both in the same group. Thankfully for Brits, there are no Group B games on a Sunday at 6pm UK time. There will, however, be an issue for whoever will win the group, with England the strong favourites to do so. They will have to play their first knockout gameon Sunday 4th December at 10pm. This will not affect the first slate of games in the NFL, but for those that watch the 10pm games and brave the office Monday morning carrying 20 cups of coffee, this presents a challenge.
Some may want to just watch England or Wales, and this would be in fact the only challenge for fans unless a home nation makes it all the way to the final. For the purist, there will be games on every Sunday at 6pm and 10pm. The final will be on at 6pm on Sunday December 18th. Just as the whistle will be blown to signal the start of the final, Scott Hanson will be saying, “Seven hours of commercial free football.”
The NFL became big in the UK in the 1980’s and early 1990’s during the Channel 4 era, but then suffered a dip in interest until the first regular season game in the UK in 2007. Ever since, the sport has grown year on year with no signs of slowing down. The winter World Cup will be a test as to how much of an NFL the British fan base are…
How many will prioritise the NFL over the World Cup? How many will watch the World Cup over American Football? How many will adopt double or triple screens to watch both sports at the same time?
UK NFL fans – consider yourself warned. Weeks 11-15 are going to take some meticulous planning in 2022.
A current Sports Journalism masters student, Andy has been writing NFL articles since January 2020. Originally from Wales, Andy also writes for pro football mania and dolphins talk, as well as appearing on podcasts and videos for euro tripz. find him on twitter @andydaviessport.