Britain likes sport. There are no two ways about it. For decades, the United Kingdom has been a nation that’s been besotted with football, cricket, tennis, and rugby, and more often than not, there have been British-born sportsmen and sportswomen competing at the highest possible athletic level.
Apparently, there are no boundaries to what type of sport we’ll watch either. Just consider the surge in popularity of American football in Britain. A very American sport by all accounts, the National Football League (NFL) has attempted to expand its reach in recent years by launching an International Series – where regular NFL season games are played on foreign territory. To date, the biggest participant in this series has been the United Kingdom – with several NFL fixtures being hosted at famous British stadium Wembley since 2007. Given how the NFL International Series is still as popular now as it was when the New York Giants played the Miami Dolphins in the very first UK-based game almost a decade ago, it’s safe to say that the people of Britain do indeed love a bit of American football. In fact, both standard and season tickets for the NFL International Series in 2017 have already completely sold out – despite the fact that kick off isn’t until October.
But of course, the bulk of the NFL is still played in its birth country, and as a Briton, getting to watch it can seem like a tricky task. A lot of people seem convinced that there’s no way to view a standard NFL game without tapping into some dodgy streaming site loaded with evil software ready to eat up your hard drive, but in reality, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Watching the NFL when you’re in the United Kingdom isn’t difficult at all, and here we’ll tell you all you need to know about seeing touchdown after touchdown in American football’s top competition from the comfort of your own British home.
NFL Game Coverage & TV Channels
First off, there’s Sky Sports. Whilst this sports television giant has faced some serious opposition from BT Sport in recent years, it has nonetheless clung onto America’s most beloved game, and remains one of the very best places to see the NFL in all its glory if you’re based in the United Kingdom. Over the course of the 2016 NFL season, five live regular season games PER WEEK will be broadcast on Sky Sports channels. These games will be spread across the weekend, with two broadcast on Sunday evening at 18:00 and 21:25, and another three broadcast early on Monday, Tuesday and Friday mornings (usually 1:30am). British-based NFL supporters can also watch every minute of the playoffs on Sky Sports during the final part of the season, as well as the Super Bowl in 2017. Anyone watching the NFL on Sky Sports can also explore the competition in greater depth by hitting the red button on their remote controls, which will take them to NFL RedZone. Here, they can immerse themselves in analysis of the sport by the pros and view all the touchdowns over the course of a particular weekend.
For those of you who don’t have access to a Sky package – never fear. The NFL is set to be broadcast on British terrestrial television during the course of 2016 as well as Sky, meaning even viewers with the simplest TV sets and inexpensive providers can catch some of the action without needing to upgrade. Every week, an NFL highlights show will beam out from a BBC channel – with users also being able to catch up on the action and view the program online via the BBC iPlayer function. The NFL International Series is also due to be broadcast live on BBC later on in the year, as well as the Super Bowl in 2017.
Lastly, Pick TV will also be showing a variety of NFL games during the course of the season. The games broadcast on this channel will be sporadic and are as of yet undecided. More information here when we get it!
NFL Game Pass
Whilst there are plenty of television channels on which to watch the NFL in the United Kingdom, the very best way to experience American football isn’t actually by setting a reminder to turn on your television set. In fact, it’s by going online. By purchasing an NFL Game Pass from NFL.com, you never have to miss another touchdown, field goal or crunching tackle ever again.
The NFL Game Pass offers a wide variety of ways for UK-based fans to experience American football. As well being able to view over 250 regular season games, playoff matches and the Super Bowl itself (available both live and on demand so you can watch at any time in high-definition), NFL Game Pass holders can also view 65 games during pre-season. NFL RedZone is also available, as well as live streams of the popular NFL Network program.
What’s more, the NFL game pass allows users to watch American football on multiple devices – meaning you can link up the live stream to your television, smartphone, laptop or tablet. “Condensed games” are also available (thirty-minute matches without breaks or commercials) as well as a comprehensive search function that enables users to sift through game highlights, teams and players from seasons gone by. If connectivity is an issue, the NFL Game Pass allows you to download games when you do have access to the Internet onto your smartphone and watch them at a later date whenever you like.
Naturally, a service quite as comprehensive and expansive as the NFL Game Pass doesn’t come cheap – and membership costs £139 for a whole season. There is the also option to make four separate payments of £42.99 for those who feel the one-off £139 figure is a little steep. If you’re intrigued by the concept, you can sample the NFL Game Pass completely free for one week. Keep in mind that as soon as you sign up you will automatically subscribe to the NFL Game Pass, so make sure you cancel before the 7 days are up if you’re not planning on paying for a whole season’s membership. That said, if you’re a big NFL fan based in Great Britain, this service is excellent value for money over the course of the season and will allow you to view any match at any time in any place.
If you opt to watch an NFL game live when you’re based in the United Kingdom, you may have to be content with staying up a little later than you ordinarily would. Due to the time difference, many of these matches take place past the average Brit’s bedtime, but if you consider yourself something of a night owl or don’t have work in the morning, there’s no better way to kick back than with some live American football.
NFL game schedules typically follow a similar pattern every single week. The first game of the weekend takes place on the Thursday night – 1:30am in British time. Sunday is when most of the games are played with several 6:00pm GMT kick offs and a handful of later games after 9pm. Another game is usually played at 1:30am on Monday morning, and another one on Tuesday morning at 1:30am.
Below you can find the NFL schedule for Week 1 of the 2016 season. It will help to give you a good idea of how the format works, and allow you to rearrange your schedule accordingly so you can take in a couple of matches.
NFL 2016 – Schedule – Week 1
Friday 9th September
Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos @ 1:30
Sunday 11th September 2016
Minnesota Vikings v Tennessee Titans @ 18:00
Chicago Bears v Houston Texans @ 18:00
Cleveland Browns v Philadelphia Eagles @ 18:00
Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens @ 18:00
San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs @ 18:00
Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints @ 18:00
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons @ 18:00
Cincinnati Bengals v New York Jets @ 18:00
Green Bay Packers v Jacksonville Jaguars @ 18:00
Miami Dolphins v Seattle Seahawks @ 21:05
New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys @ 21:25
Detroit Lions v Indianapolis Colts @ 21:25
Monday 12th September 2016
New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals @ 1:30
Tuesday 13th September 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins @ 0:10
Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers @ 3:20
Other important dates for your NFL diary
- Sunday 1st January 2017 - Week 17 (The final week of the regular season)
- Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th January 2017 - The Wildcard Playoff matches
- Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th January 2017 - The Divisional Round Playoff matches
- Sunday 22nd January 2017 - The Conference Championships
- Monday 30th January 2017 - The Pro Bowl
- Sunday 5th February 2017 - The Super Bowl (Super Bowl LI)
As you can see, watching the NFL in the United Kingdom is hardly as impossible as a lot of people like to make out. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy. There is a nice selection of channels to choose from – whether you own a Sky Sports package, Freeview television, or typical terrestrial television. Of course, if you have Internet access, the NFL Game Pass is a terrific way to immerse yourself entirely within the NFL season, and offers UK citizens the kind of viewing experience they’d get if they were watching American football across the Atlantic in the sport’s homeland.
We hope you found the above guide on how to watch NFL in the UK helpful and that you’re rubbing your hands at the prospect of a brand new American football season lying on the horizon. Not long to go now…