American football today received official recognition in the seat of British government with the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group for the sport.
The APPG was formally kicked off at a reception in the House of Commons attended by the Deputy Leader of the House, David Heath MP; members of the APPG and other MPs; officials of the British American Football Association and the National Football League; and former Super Bowl-winning NFL players. Also present were representatives of the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who meet in the NFL’s International Series game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday (October 23).
Introducing the aims of the APPG, chairman Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford, said: “There is strong support for American football within Westminster and a group of us felt that we should get more involved in developing the sport here at both the amateur and professional levels.
“We will be working closely with BAFA, the NFL and other organisations to promote and increase official recognition of American football within the UK sporting landscape. We hope to be able to develop participation in the sport at grassroots level, create opportunities for British players to reach their full potential in the sport and support the pathway to having eventually a UK-based NFL team.”
British American Football Association Chairman Gary Marshall added: “This is a fantastic initiative and for those of us involved in developing the sport here it is great to know that we now have a voice in Parliament. Everyone with an interest in developing American football in the UK will now have the opportunity to work closely with the Parliamentary Group to try to achieve our collective goals.”
Dr John York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers and chairman of the NFL owners’ International Committee, commented: “This is a great sign of the continued growth of the sport. Having been here this time last year with my team I saw how excited people in the UK were about American football at all levels, whether watching the NFL or playing for or supporting their local team.’
NFL owners last week voted to continue playing games in the UK until at least 2016. “That shows how committed my colleagues among the ownership are to the continued development of the sport,” said Dr York. “We are excited about playing our role in supporting the aims of the APPG.”
Other elected officers of the APPG are George Hollingbery, MP for Meon Valley; Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough and Rushden; and Gregg McClymont, MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East.