It's now harder to get a ticket for a London NFL game than a Beyoncé concert - so where next for American football in the UK?

Alex Finnis
The Telegraph
Wembley Stadium ahead of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills in 2015 - Getty Images
Wembley Stadium ahead of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills in 2015 - Getty Images

You're sat hunched over your computer, five different tabs open in three different browsers. One more open on your phone. The group chat is overflowing with anxiety and everyone is just waiting. Poised, with their trigger fingers hovering over the refresh button, counting down the seconds until it's time to pounce.

What does this make you think of? Glastonbury, right? Maybe Arctic Monkeys at the O2, or Jay-Z and Beyoncé at the London Stadium.

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But for fans of American football, this is also now the reality of getting tickets for the few games a year played in London.

A decade ago it seemed unthinkable that the British public would be scrambling to watch the Tennessee Titans in the same way they do Justin Timberlake. America's Game was always a very niche interest to us, our knowledge of the sport limited to the odd game of Madden played round a friend's house (quickly ditched because neither of you knew the rules).

No longer. Sky Sports now airs as many NFL games per week as it does Premier League. You regularly see American football stories take up prime positions on the BBC Sport website, and I challenge you to spend more than 20 minutes walking around a big city without seeing someone in a Cowboys jacket, a Giants cap, or a Patriots beanie.

<span>The Seattle Seahawks take on the Oakland Raiders at Wembley on Sunday afternoon</span> <span>Credit: (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) </span>
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Oakland Raiders at Wembley on Sunday afternoon Credit: (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

On Sunday around 90,000 fans will flock to Wembley - dressed in jerseys from all around the league - to watch the Seattle Seahawks take on the Oakland Raiders. According to StubHub, demand for the London games is up an incredible 333 per cent in five years, and 40 per cent on last season - despite there being one fewer fixture. The NFL is no longer arriving in the UK, it's already here - and it continues to grow exponentially.

Want to have a guess at the most in-demand tickets across the entire league going into this season? It's not the Cowboys' opener, or the world champion Eagles playing in front of their home crowd for the first time - though that is the right team. It's the 28 Oct clash between Philadelphia and our adopted Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley. StubHub says this is the first time a London game has landed on its most in-demand list, but it won't be the last.

The question now is how much longer fans will be scrabbling their way into three or four games per season, instead of being treated to a full eight-game schedule - a permanent NFL team based out of the English capital.

This already feels more like a matter of when, not if. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan announced his intentions to build a training facility near Wembley last year. This year he's gone one further, and is intending to purchase the entire stadium. Tottenham Hotspur's new ground is being purpose built for the NFL, with a permanent, retractable field. It's now very possible we will see a London franchise within five years, and it would be foolish to bet against it happening in ten.

<span>Jacksonville Jaguars players enter the Wembley field for their 2016 game against the Indianapolis Colts</span> <span>Credit: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images </span>
Jacksonville Jaguars players enter the Wembley field for their 2016 game against the Indianapolis Colts Credit: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Speaking on this, NFL executive vice president of international and events Mark Waller told Forbes: "We feel very confident now from a fanbase perspective, from the size of the audience that we're reaching, from the sort of business we're generating and the support we're getting politically.

"We've proven all the logistical variables now. This year we'll play three games on consecutive weekends. That's an important test for us because in the event we ever did have a franchise here it's likely our schedule would be blocks of three or four games here, then three or four games over in the States so the team wasn’t traveling every other week.

"The one thing we can't ever test for unfortunately is, if you have a team based here, could it be competitively successful over time when it's traveling significantly more than any other team?"

That's the one slight stumbling block - having one franchise thousands of miles across the sea isn't exactly what you'd call convenient, but it's certainly not impossible. Our very own rugby Super League was a mere three points away from having a team from Toronto in it next season, and the issue of travel is one the NFL has already made obvious is one it's very willing to overcome through its vast investment on our shores.

For years the life of a devoted British NFL fan has meant reclusive Sunday evenings and inexplicably turning up to work on a Friday on one hour's sleep. For the recently converted and the next generation, a day out to see the London Jaguars will be as easy and normal as a trip to Old Trafford.

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