The National Football League is looking to grow its international business to $1 billion annually over the next 10 years — and is using flag football to get to the end zone.
Damani Leech, COO of NFL International, says the league’s next phase of expansion is overseas, projecting 50 million more international consumers in the next decade, despite already having more than 150 million international and 180 million domestic fans.
To reach its goal, the league is pushing to add flag football to the 2028 Olympic Games.
“We’ve got to make the game matter,” Leech told CNBC. “If flag football becomes a sport [in the Olympics], more countries will invest in playing that sport.”
- American football was included as a demonstration sport in the 1932 Olympics but hasn’t been recognized since — it requires at least a one-week pause between games of the same teams.
- Reebok’s lobby for the sport’s entrance failed in 1996.
The International Federation of American Football became recognized as a governing body in 2013 by the International Olympic Committee, which would likely help the sport’s newest bid to enter the competition.
Harvey Schiller, former executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said that the NFL will need to get more countries to play the game, spend time with the IOC members voting on the plan, and compete in international markets.
The decision reportedly won’t come until after the 2024 Olympics.