The NFL has gradually ramped up its investment in building football in the United Kingdom ever since its first London game back in 2007. The Jacksonville Jaguars now have a semi-permanent presence in London, and in 2015 the league partnered with Tottenham Hotspur to build a new stadium that will be the league's permanent home in London, which opens this year.
Now the league is taking the next step in that investment. The NFL is stepping beyond cultivating a new crop of fans to building and training a new crop of players.
The league announced on Tuesday it will form the NFL Academy in London, which will train 80 players between 16 and 18 years of age to eventually become future NFL players.
“The Academy is a first-of-its kind initiative that will deliver against three key elements: education, character development and football,” NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood said in a statement. “The inspiration for the idea was our long-term partnership with Tottenham Hotspur. As well as playing games at the new stadium, we had a desire to create something meaningful for the community on a year-round basis.”
Nike will outfit NFL Academy players, and the players will study at Barnet and Southgate College, which offers similar training/study programs in other sports. Here's the official posting on the NFL Academy's website, which makes more sense when you read with a British accent:
The NFL Academy is a unique programme that gives aspiring young American football players and outstanding athletes the chance to develop their skills and knowledge of the game.
Alongside elite coaching, athletes will study courses of their choice at Barnet and Southgate College.
There will also be a character development programme for students to give them all the tools to be successful in whatever pathway they take following the NFL Academy.Athletes will be given access to elite sports training facilities, kit and equipment, as well as an opportunity to learn from players and coaches from the NFL.
They will be involved in outreach projects in the local community and be given a pathway for apprenticeships and higher education opportunities (in the UK and US).
This life-changing opportunity is available for up to 80 students per year, aged 16-18. Selection for the NFL Academy programme will be based on athletic ability, as well as educational and character assessment.
The NFL says recent and current players like Osi Umenyiora (born in London), Jay Ajayi (ditto), Odell Beckham and Patrick Mahomes will lend a hand training the enrollees, but the academy will apparently be run by former NFL director of football for international player development Tony Allen, according to Barnet and Southgate College's posting.
To understand the baseline level of football familiarity among British teenagers, check out this chart on the NFL Academy's website:
Registration begins next month, and the inaugural class will enroll this September. If everything goes according to plan, the best players could be turned over to college football programs by 2020 and in the NFL by 2023.