The NFL has recently announced the first of its kind academy to be built in the UK. The NFL Academy, which begins operations in September, will offer student-athletes aged 16-18 the opportunity to combine education with life skills and intensive training in the sport under full-time professional coaches. Supported by Nike and based at Barnet and Southgate College, in North London, the NFL Academy will provide students with pathways into employment, further education and even the potential opportunity to play NCAA college football in the United States.
This represents a big moment for the future of American Football in the UK as the NFL looks to cement its place as a popular sport. The sports long term goal has been to create a permanent NFL franchise in the UK possibly playing at Wembley or at the new home of Tottenham Hotspur. Currently, there are four regular season games held in London and they have been a massive hit.
However, for the game the grow even more within the UK the governing body has identified that it needs more overseas players with players from the UK currently hard to come by. Less than 3% of players in the 2018 season were born overseas and there are currently only two British NFL players in Menelik Watson and Jay Ajayi respectively.
Ajayi has also become an ambassador for the new academy in which he will mentor and oversee the development of the young players. Upon the announcement of the academy, Jay Ajayi said “Before this, London didn’t have a lot of resources for that local kid who loves American football – now they have a place where they can go and chase that dream. If we get even one success story it would be huge”.
It’s clear to see that the NFL is trying to take the next step to become a dominant sport within the UK with the launch of its academy. It’s also clear the process of recruitment into the NFL from the UK will be changed for the better and we should see more players from the UK playing at the very top of American Football.