On Sunday, 13 November, a special match is scheduled at the Allianz Arena: the Seattle Seahawks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is the first ever NFL game to be played on German soil. Here you can find out the main facts about American football and how the sport has developed in Germany and in Munich in particular.
“At the beginning, the rules of football were still secret knowledge: only those who lived near a US barracks could find out what they were by listening to the American Forces Network radio station. The first fans in Munich invited veterans from Frankfurt to teach them the game; a colonel stationed at McGraw Barracks was one of the first Cowboys coaches. Some of the players from the early days were still there in 1993 when the male Cowboys clinched their first and so far only German championship title; that final in Munich was attended by over 12,000 spectators. The women's amateur team won the title in 2005 and 2006.
In Germany, new fans were mainly attracted when the US professional league NFL became accessible through the media – in the 1980s with the introduction of cable television, and in the 1990s with the pay-TV channel Premiere. From 1995 to 2007 there was also an NFL Europe, an offshoot of the US franchise. The level of popularity was high, with some matches attracting more than 30,000 spectators, especially in Frankfurt, which is a major centre of the sport. There was no Munich team in this league however.
Since 2015 the NFL has been regularly shown on free TV, which has led to popularity soaring like never before: the last Super Bowl – the NFL final – was watched by almost two million viewers in Germany from half past one at night until four in the morning. But the sport is not just gaining a following on the couch with beer and burgers: local football clubs are especially popular among children and youngsters.
One reason for this is that in football, young people of any stature and height can get involved. There’s a lot of emphasis on team spirit: nobody’s an outsider. Around 72,000 men and women now play football in Germany. This puts the sport in 32nd place in terms of membership, and the trend is upward: unlike many other sports, American football continued to grow during the pandemic, too.
The Munich Cowboys still play in the national league and have been very successful so far in 2022, but they’ve also made headlines because they have a female Bundesliga head coach on the sidelines for the first time: Nadine Nurasyid.
A new Europe-wide league has now also got under way with a strong German focus. The Munich Cowboys still play in the national league and have been very successful so far in 2022, but they’ve also made headlines because they have a female Bundesliga head coach on the sidelines for the first time: Nadine Nurasyid.
The fact that an official NFL league game is now being held in Munich has to do with the growing popularity of the sport in Germany too, of course. According to the NFL’s PR department in Europe, 800,000 people were interested in getting tickets for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game against the Seattle Seahawks on 13 November at the Allianz Arena. Together with Frankfurt, Munich is to host a total of four games over a period of four years.
Thousands of fans from all over Europe are expected for the match, and the authorities of the City of Munich and Bavaria have planned a huge programme of activities. Flag football (a child-friendly version of the game without rough jostling) will be taught at 16 schools for three months, for example, and lots of parties are scheduled to be held in downtown Munich. The NFL has timed all this very well: the match at the Allianz Arena takes places just when the Bundesliga professionals are travelling to Qatar for their World Cup.