Australian Rules Football Has Beaten The NFL To China

The NFL is still a regional sport.

For more than a decade, the National Football League has been trying to stage a pre-season game in China. The league struck out in an attempt to have a game in 2007 exactly 365 days prior to the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The National Basketball Association has been doing business in China since 2004 with pre-season games. The National Hockey League has had pre-season games in the country. But the NFL has not figured out how to have a game in Beijing or Shanghai. But there is a form of football that has been played in China and that is Australian Rules Football, which was a staple of very early day ESPN programming in the late 1970s. The Australian Football League has opened an office in China and plans to tap into the market that has more than 1.2 billion people. The Australian football circuit has also staged regular games in China since 2017. The NFL had two games planned for Beijing neither took place in 2007 and 2009.

The National Football League international committee, the people in charge of finding venues around the world so that the league can expand its fan base, apparently is taking a close look at Brazil, not China. There is a claim that Brazil is the NFL’s third biggest consumer market. The NFL has established a beachhead in London, the only reasonably successful non-American outpost for the league. The National Football League is the biggest sports league in the United States but its sports influence is far behind soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf and tennis globally along with track and field and boxing. The NFL has spent the last 15 years looking to expand the business beyond the United States and North America. There is money to be made globally but the NFL has had problems in gaining global acceptance.