NFL UK presence grown via Jets and Bulls’ Girls Flag League continuation
Credit: NFL Girls Flag League, Hanover PR

Marking International Women’s Day, the US NFL teams New York Jets and Chicago Bears have extended the reach of the NFL Girls Flag League in the UK.

This shows both a continuation of the teams’ and the NFL’s CSR objectives, particularly relating to grassroots participation in American football and diversity, but also the leagues’ UK activity.

The 2024 edition of the league – a non-contact form of American football – began with 200 students from 21 participating schools at EFL club AFC Wimbledon’s Cherry Red Records Stadium in Southwest London.

A Jets statement read: “We are delighted to strengthen our commitment to the UK youth this year and expand the Girls Flag league. As a franchise, we are committed to growing female participation in sports at every opportunity. 

“NFL Flag provides a sustainable way to achieve this while teaching young girls life lessons that will have an impact far beyond the football field. 

“We have seen Jets fandom in the UK grow over the past few years, and we hope that these girls can drive a new wave of female fans in the years to come.”  

The decision to continue the league into 2024 was based on the success of last year’s inaugural season in the London Borough of Ealing. Participation in the league has risen from 120 last year to 260 for the 2024 season.

Structurally, the league will involve two conferences with the tournament commencing on 15 April, one run by the Jets and the other by the Bears, with the winners due to go head-to-head in a Championship event on 20 May.

The league has also attracted commercial interest, with NFL partner Nike producing official team kits as a presenting partner of the flag tournament.

The Chicago Bears’ statement added: “Girls’ flag football continues to grow locally and internationally. Last month, we witnessed the sport become sanctioned in Chicago (US) and the state of Illinois. 

“The game will also be introduced to the Olympic Games in 2028. As flag football progresses, the Chicago Bears will remain committed to championing the sport’s growth. We are thrilled to be back in the UK for a second year with the Jets. 

“To see the enthusiasm and engagement for American football is incredible, and we are excited for what the second year of the league will bring, especially ahead of the Bears playing a game in London in October.”

Grassroots engagement has been a key part of the NFL’s strategy of expansion in the UK, where American football has grown in popularity over the past decade.

In an interview with Insider Sport last year, NFL UK General Manager, Henry Hodgson, explained how the expansion of the NFL Foundation in Birmingham and Greater Manchester formed part of plans for a possible UK franchise in the future.

Meanwhile, this year’s Super Bowl, which saw Kansas City Chiefs beat San Francisco 49ers, amassed an average audience of 514,000 on Sky Sports, making it the most watched Super Bowl in the outlet’s history.

“It’s fantastic to see participation in NFL Flag throughout the UK continuing to grow at pace,” added Afia Law, NFL International Flag Football Development Manager.

“Initiatives such as the Jets and Bears NFL Girls Flag league are fundamental to the sport’s development here and to driving female participation. 

“The experiences and friendships young people make today in flag football have the potential to last a lifetime, and we hope their stories can go on to inspire more and more young girls to find their place in the sport.”

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