Croydon’s London Warriors welcome three-year RFU deal to showcase NFL at Twickenham

The NFL will touchdown in Twickenham next year as the RFU has agreed a three-year deal with their American cousins to stage at least three matches at the iconic stadium at the heart of English rugby.

The first sporting showcase will be broadcast live next October, the new deal reflects the growing popularity of the sport since the first UK NFL in 2007 when the New York Giants defeated Miami Dolphins at Wembley.

Croydon already has a strong American football team, the London Warriors, who recently topped the British American Football Association (BAFA) Premier Division for their third successive championship.

London Warriors’ Kevin Keohane, who plays offensive lineman, said the deal comes as a major boost to American football in the UK as the sport continues to grow.

He said: “It is becoming increasingly popular in south west London with multiple teams now set up in the area, which has been extremely well received by the fans.”

London currently has four teams competing in the BAFA alongside the London Warriors, Blitz, Olympians and Hornets participating.

The 35-year-old former GB international revealed that UK teams don’t get paid to play and instead pay subs each week just to make the team sheet, with the sport seen as a hobby rather than a professional occupation.

“All the players in the UK are amateurs and play the game as a hobby, 99% of our players are either in full-time education or full-time work,” he said.

“In terms of getting paid anytime soon, I can’t see it until exposure increases. Hopefully by more sponsors getting involved with clubs this will increase the money clubs can make.

“Clubs in the UK are non-profit. We exist to help give something back to the community by trying to give kids from South-West London an outlet and stop them being involved with gangs.”

In terms of crowds, Keohane was hopeful of an increase the more popular the sport gets but is content with current attendances.

“In our home game against our rivals the Blitz we got between 500-600 fans and the grand final saw 1,500 turn up so it’s definitely growing,” he said.

Keohane, whose former teams include the Farnham Knights, was always a big American Football fan and has no plans just yet to end his 16-year career.

“The way I got into it was by watching NFL Europe on Channel Four and watching the London Monarchs,” he said.

“After watching for many years, my friend encouraged me to give it a go with a taster session and here I am now 16 years later. I am very lucky to have played a sport I love for so long.

“I have played all over the World and Europe; playing games in Austria, Germany, France and Finland just to name a few.

“I have had a few injuries as of late but plan to play for a few more years to come.”

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