San Francisco 49ers Should Capatalise on UK Fan Base
The 49ers are one of the most famous American sports teams and rightly so when you consider their past history of success.
But it may surprise some that their fan base in the U.K. seems to be growing.
I can remember back to October 2010 when I flew to London to see the team take on and defeat the Denver Broncos at Wembley, and seeing a sea of red and gold throughout the stadium.
Now, I understood that it was an International Series game and the 49ers were the 'home team,' so I thought that many fans would be wearing the jersey despite not even knowing that the 49ers were an NFL team.
But I was pleasantly surprised to find that most fans I spoke to had a really good knowledge of the team; whether it be the history of the franchise or their offseason moves.
As a 49er fan in Scotland, I can see the franchise expanding its horizons everyday. Just yesterday I saw someone walking around with an Alex Smith Jersey and a 49ers cap.
Back in October 2010, it was cool to see people stopping to look at the Frank Gore billboards on the way to the stadium.
It was even more funny to hear the amazing crowd reaction that Jerry Rice received when he took to the stage during the pregame rally cry.
Forget the noise of music acts like Asher Roth at the event, the biggest noise was of fans shouting the really original chant of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" as loud as they could.
Although I'm very happy that the team is experiencing success for the first time in years, I'm also saddened because I know that the 49ers won't be touching down in the U.K. anytime soon.
I think the NFL as a whole is growing in the U.K. every day.
Just last week, I was lucky enough to win a competition to be part of a fans evening in London with Steven Jackson, Ray Lewis and Nate Solder.
Unfortunately, I was already committed to going on holiday and that is where I'm writing my articles right now.
Back to the subject of the 49ers.
Since I've started writing for this site, I've taken the time to be more active on sports forums and interact with fellow NFL fans and sports enthusiasts.
I was delighted to find that 49ers had the highest percentage of U.K. fans on two forums I visit a lot.
Part of the reason may be the fantastic experience everyone had in 2010, but I have some other thoughts.
Just so you know, the fans got excited with Troy Smith under center and the most boring first half I've ever seen so I can only imagine what it would be like if the team were riding a high like last year.
Jim Tomsula is a big reason for the big U.K. fan base.
A bit of a journeyman, Tomsula was loved during his spell as defensive line coach with the England Monarchs and then adored for the five years he was the defensive line coach for the Scottish Claymores.
I'm sure many people are happy to see him move on from NFL Europe to a big NFL franchise.
The 49ers already had a pretty big following in the U.K. because of their visits in the 1980's and early 1990's.
The American Bowl series ended largely because the games were only friendlies, but the fact that 49ers and Dolphins jerseys were the most worn in 2010 is evidence that the teams impressed.
I think more and more people are beginning to understand the game and so it can only continue to grow.
I've got to be honest and say that American sports often place way too much emphasis on over-the-top entertainment rather than the game itself, but I was really impressed that I didn't feel like I was at a concert when the 49ers played the Broncos.
Even more interesting is the way that the fans adapted back in 2010.
Football (soccer fans) are more loud and passionate than NFL fans and so I worried that fans may hear the lack of atmosphere and singing they are used to and feel disappointed.
But I was delighted to find that they spent more time analyzing the game and actually respecting its nuances rather than focusing on how it was a little quieter than what they may be used to.
So I think that Tomsula, the American Bowl Series and the growing understanding of the game have all helped the 49ers continue to grow their brand.
Now, I'm just waiting for an official San Francisco 49ers fan club to start up in Scotland or the U.K. as there hasn't been one for a few years now.
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