Germany has always been fanatic about football — and for years, it has been the leader in European fandom when it comes to American football as well.
The Frankfurt Galaxy was the only team that played in every season of the long-ago World League of American Football, winning four World Bowl titles. When the league disbanded in 2007, five of the six clubs were based in Germany.
The NFL’s European expansion and brand building has for years been focused on London but last year, pro football returned to Germany when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 in Munich in what the NFL said was the league’s most successful international game in terms of viewership and merchandise sales.
This year the NFL went to Frankfurt for two games on consecutive weekends, with the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts holding off the New England Patriots on the following Sunday. The games had more than 4 million ticket requests for a stadium that holds just over 50,000 — with both contests selling out in under five minutes as other cities in the country are interested in hosting future games.
“It was a great party, great atmosphere — the NFL did great job for the four teams who took part in Frankfurt,” said Armin Kraaz, head of sports projects in the Americas for Eintracht Frankfurt, the Bundesliga club that hosted the games at Deutsche Bank Park. “For the city of Frankfurt and our stadium, it was an unbelievable experience, unbelievable value that we were able to host two games in one week. Who can say that outside of the U.S.?”
The first game of the WLAF in 1991 featured Galaxy hosting the London Monarchs at Waldstadion, now called Deutsche Bank Park. Dolphins special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was a defensive back for the London Monarchs in the game.
“It was very different from what I was accustomed to,” Crossman said the Thursday before the Dolphins’ loss to the Chiefs. “It wasn’t college football — the pageantry of college football — it wasn’t the National Football League, it was a party. There were fireworks and it was all kinds of stuff going into pregame.”
The atmosphere from that game in 1991 carried over into 2023 as well. “This Frankfurt crowd was great — honestly, kind of like a playoff atmosphere,” said Chiefs defensive back Trent McDuffie told reporters after Kansas City’s win.
While the impact for Eintracht remains to be seen from a club branding perspective, it does have inroads within the NFL. The club, which won the 2022 UEFA Europa League championship, has a tie-in with the Carolina Panthers. There was a Super Bowl watch party hosted by the teams at Eintracht Frankfurt and the Panthers went to Frankfurt to host a youth flag football clinic and tournament as part of a broader effort to expand flag football throughout Germany, the impact of which has already been seen in the stands the past two weekends.
“Fans came from all over Europe to our city,” Kraaz said. “It was a boost factor for Frankfurt. You saw fans in the stands wearing Packers, Bears, Commanders, Chiefs — whatever shirts they had. It was not only Dolphins and Chiefs, all the football community came to Frankfurt and had a big party. It was great.”