Atlanta Falcons awarded German market - What does it mean?

Seattle Seahawks v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seattle Seahawks v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Sebastian Widmann/GettyImages

Earlier this week, the NFL announced the expansion of the Global Markets Program (formerly Internation Home Market Areas); the scheme that, they believe, will allow their teams, and the league as a whole, to grow their, and its, worldwide fanbase, outside of the United States. Chiefly among the announcement was the news that the Atlanta Falcons had been awarded Germany as a market they will have access to as part of the program.

This is the first time the Atlanta Falcons have taken part in the program, which was previously comprised of 19 teams across 10 countries. With the addition of the Falcons in Germany, as well as the New Orleans Saints in France, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the program now comprises of 21 teams across 19 countries, with some existing teams within the Global Markets Program adding to their portfolio.

What is the Global Markets Program?

The Global Markets Program is the NFL’s latest attempt to globalize the sport of American Football. Until last year, teams within the NFL were prohibited from marketing themselves overseas (with the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had committed to at least a game a season to be played in London). The GMP effectively gave NFL teams the opportunity to market themselves abroad as they would locally, be that through sponsorships, setting up supporters groups, or helping bolster existing sports teams in the area; whatever teams could do within their local communities, they could then do overseas.

To avoid oversaturation, however, the NFL put together a bidding system to stop too many teams from setting up shop in one or two locations. Some markets, such as the UK and Mexico, have more teams setting up in those markets than others, primarily because of the NFL’s efforts in those countries over the past 15(ish) years. But the general goal is the allow teams to build up the brand in specific territories, thus building up the strength of the league as a whole.

How does this affect the Atlanta Falcons?

Right now? It doesn’t, really. The Falcons are slated to play a road game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium this season, and, obviously, that will not change. Having given up home games to host games in London in 2014 and 2021, I was a little surprised they would opt to bid for the German market over that of the UK. It does, however, make some sense.

As mentioned in the announcement post to, the team's current stadium sponsor, Mercedes Benz, among other sponsors such as Delta, have a foothold in Germany as it is, giving the team the opportunity for immediate brand association. Furthermore, the team has an existing fan group set up in Germany, with ATLFalconsGER namechecked more than once online. There’s a community of Falcons fans already stationed in Germany, and the London games prove every year just how well-supported the team is in Europe as a whole. As a central point for those fans, Germany makes a lot of sense. And then there’s the prospect of games in Germany.

New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons NFL London 2021 match
New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons NFL London 2021 match / Tom Jenkins/GettyImages

The NFL hosted its first NFL game in Germany last season, with the Buccaneers overcoming the Seahawks 21-16. The game itself wasn’t much of a spectacle, but the pre, and post, weekend reaction was something that effectively put the NFL on notice. The game at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena had around 75000 tickets available, and the NFL believes it could have sold 3000000 tickets to that game. Germany will host two games in 2023, in Frankfurt’s Waldstadion. Don’t be shocked if that expands again into three, four, and more games in Germany a season. The Falcons will absolutely be angling to host a game in Germany in the coming seasons.

Does that mean the Falcons will be playing in Germany every season?

In 2021, the NFL changed its schedule from a 16-game slate to a 17 game slate, with the AFC and the NFC alternating which conference will have one more home game year to year. The idea being that teams with the extra home game would use that opportunity to play abroad without US fans losing out on a home game. The new rules ensure that every team will be guaranteed to play an international game abroad at least once every 8 years, however, teams can still volunteer themselves to play games as they have been up until this year.

The Atlanta Falcons are not required to play a game a year in Germany, nor are they likely to volunteer to. The likelihood is they’ll play a game in Germany at some point in the next couple of years, and won’t return for a little while after that. In addition to themselves, the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers share the market. You’d imagine those teams will have some sort of priority over whether they want to play in Germany in certain years.

Seattle Seahawks v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seattle Seahawks v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Sebastian Widmann/GettyImages

The key thing to remember is that the Germany games, much like the Mexico and London games, are not organized by the teams themselves, but the NFL. They’re considered NFL events, rather than team-specific events, therefore even teams that don’t have access to the German market could be handed a game there.

This is vastly different to the approach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who organize their own games in the UK. They have entered into an exclusivity deal with Wembley Stadium, and have committed to play at least a game a year in London. The Falcons are free to negotiate that sort of deal themselves, of court, but given only one team has done that and followed through with it (the aforementioned Jaguars, after the then St. Louis Rams backed out), I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the Falcons making that trip annually.